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business models

An Innovative Open Data Initiative

In complex settings like major cities, access to and productive use of data is increasingly critical

Dublinked’s online data store provides access to data from both the public and private sectors

Dublinked’s activities support innovation in social, environmental, and economic arenas

There is significant potential to transfer Dublinked’s model to other cities around the world

Dublinked is a partnership among entities in the Dublin region that provides access to valuable datasets that were previously inaccessible or difficult to find to foster innovation and economic development.



Innovation Summary

Dublinked is a unique open-data initiative based in Dublin, Ireland that supports collaborative and creative problem solving among members of the regional government and industry sectors. Dublinked’s central resource is an online data store for private citizens, government agencies, entrepreneurs, and businesses. Unlike other open-data initiatives that focus solely on opening up public data with an eye to transparency, Dublinked provides broad access to datasets from both the public and private sectors. Dublinked’s objectives include spurring job creation, creating new products and services, and providing a space in which to test new ideas and technologies. The initiative’s scope ranges from supporting large industry working on infrastructure projects, to helping startups develop new apps or supporting social entrepreneurs working to alleviate poverty and improve health outcomes in the city. Several apps, including one that identifies travel routes and another that maps projects being planned across the city, have already been developed.Dublinked also provides opportunities for public and private parties to come together and use data to drive systems-based thinking that can lead to innovative solutions. It organizes workshops to improve relationships and to simplify the processes for people in the region to work together.


Dublinked is ultimately about leveraging existing resources to solve problems. It opens up human and information resources which may previously have been inaccessible or difficult to find, and provides a space for their productive use. It creates an environment to support innovation in social, environmental, and economic arenas, which could lead to solutions that reduce waste, conserve water, optimize traffic flow, or reduce resource use in other ways.

In complex settings like major cities, with the immense scale of the resources and systems at work and the magnitude of data being collected, access to and productive use of data is increasingly critical. Dublinked has created a low-cost model for connecting people with data in a way that benefits both the public sector and businesses, which has the potential to transfer to other cities around the world to help them optimize their resource use.


The idea for Dublinked, which was founded formally in 2011, came about during one of the greatest financial crises Ireland has ever experienced, when it was clear that the city needed new ways to do better with fewer resources. Funding comes from the National University of Ireland Maynooth and four local authorities (Dublin City Council, DunLaoghaire Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council). Members pay a small fee to access data. IBM Research provides open collaboration technologies and tools.


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Resource Fix: Irrigation Pumps from Kickstart International

KickStart is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to take millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively, and sustainably, using a private-sector business model focused specifically on irrigation for small-scale farmers in Africa.

Eighty percent of the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa are rural farmers who live on small, low-productivity farms, grow insufficient food to properly feed their families, and earn just enough money to survive, but not enough to escape poverty. KickStart identifies profitable business opportunities open to these farmers, and then designs, manufactures, markets and sells simple tools to create profitable family farm enterprises that rely on irrigated rather than rain-fed agriculture.

Credit Esther Havens

Kickstart’s portable irrigation pumps enable farmers to pull water from shallow wells or surface sources using manual power, without the use of fuel. The pumps increase the acreage that can be planted year-round, while more efficiently using far less water than channel or flood irrigation methods. Irrigation enables farmers to grow multiple cycles of high-value crops throughout the year, generate higher yields, and harvest and sell crops in the long, dry, “hungry season” when prices are highest and spoilage related to market saturation is less likely. (Typically 50 percent of rain-fed crops are spoiled before they are eaten or sold.)

KickStart’s solutions address a number of interconnected problems simultaneously. They increase agricultural productivity, alleviate poverty (generating income to pay for many basic needs, including children’s education), reduce food wasted due to spoilage, and increase food security for rural African communities. Moreover, KickStart is using an innovative strategy (Mobile Layaway) that leverages mobile money technology to help farmers save for irrigation pumps using a convenient, low cost, and secure micro-payment service, and has plans to use farmer training to increase the efficacy of its programs.

KickStart is also focused on using fewer resources in the pumps themselves. The newest pump, the MoneyMakerMax (MMM) is 22 percent lighter, about 10 percent more water efficient, and more rust-resistant than its predecessor, and is designed so that twice as many pumps can fit into a shipping container, reducing resource use and costs associated with transportation.



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Resource Fix: Kiosks for medical care

Healthspot is a “hospital-in-a-box” that makes medical care more accessible, even when hospitals are distant or local urgent care centers are overflowing with patients.

Companies are increasingly turning to a mobile kiosk or pop-up model to provide office space, medical and municipal services, and even hotel accommodations. What role might this model play in an increasingly mobile world? What opportunities or risks do you see for your business?