Affordable, Data-Driven Innovation in the Dutch Motor Vehicle Industry
RDW’s Data Platform Gives Its Ecosystem Access to Better Data — More Quickly and Less Expensively
Dienst Wegverkeer (RDW) is the Netherlands’ national authority for vehicle administration and transportation, in the area of the licensing of vehicles and vehicle parts, supervision and enforcement, registration, information provision, and issuing documents. The organisation delivers on the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment’s policy objectives relating to mobility, traffic safety, and the environment.
The organisation collaborates closely with various partners in the mobility chain to provide solutions. RDW registers and delivers data (and much more) to a wide group of social, national, and international partners in the mobility chain.
Open data helps RDW deliver on its partner-centric strategy, while also streamlining and improving data, reducing spend, and tapping into a creative group of developers to build new and better solutions for the industry it serves.
Given the need to provide industry partners with solutions, RDW management has always been committed to providing data to the public. It first made select data available as open data in 2012, as a separate channel for information provisioning, alongside the regular, service-level based information provisioning. As RDW sought to do more for its partners, it faced several hurdles.
Performing at Scale: With tens of millions of rows, hundreds of columns, and data that changes constantly throughout the course of the day, RDW’s data is large and complex. Traffic spikes of millions of concurrent users occur with little notice, as interest in the data comes from inside and outside of the Netherlands.
Data Quality: RDW knew the quality of its data could always be improved. The organisation understood that individuals with motor vehicle data in its system felt passionately about RDW getting it right, particularly in the Registered Vehicles dataset.
Diverse User Base: RDW had a number of ideas about how its motor vehicle supply chain partners would use the data, but did not (or could not) know them all. RDW data is substantial, changes rapidly, and can be technical, so the organisation needed a solution that would provide different levels of tools and access, for different kinds of users, supporting different formats and use cases.
Affordability: The solution needed to be affordable since RDW is a self-funded organisation (i.e. through licensing fees or paid governmental products).
RDW launched opendata.rdw.nl with Socrata in 2014, providing dozens of static and live datasets. Updates to the datasets flow into the catalog through Windows Azure Marketplace and Socrata’s DataSync tool. Changes are automatically appended to the datasets and available to the public throughout the day.
RDW’s catalog is one of the most heavily accessed group of datasets available as open data in Europe. In the year to date (nearly 5 months), it has supported:
- 750K browser page views
- Over 15 million API calls
- 55 datasets and over 300 dataset views
- Dozens of apps built by third parties
The Business Value
RDW’s business manager, Gert Jan Holland, cites five ways the business has gained value from its open data platform: staff efficiency, improvement of data quality, responsiveness to smaller companies, creation of better solutions, and cost reduction.
Frees Up Staff Time: RDW’s open data cloud solution lets the IT team focus on other critical applications and services. Like many government departments, it is under budget pressure. “There’s no way we could have all of the staff needed to build and run an open data platform. They would be pulled off other mission-critical projects, which is not possible,” says Holland.
Reduces Cost of Data Quality: Once Dutch vehicle data was made available to the public, a dynamic feedback loop was built. As RDW quickly learned, there is no better place for errors in the data to be discovered and addressed, since the data was used in different and new ways. The datasets were improved within weeks. The improvement to data quality has been one of the most immediate and surprising benefits. Crowd-sourcing content has been popular in the private sector for years, and RDW and its users are now benefitting as well.
Improves Supply Chain Efficiency: RDW’s data platform allows RDW to focus on building and maintaining the group’s core IT systems. Now industry partners use the RDW data in the platform to supply solutions for consumers, repair shops, automotive dealers, and others — allowing RDW to focus on what it does best.
Better Mission Delivery: With a stated mission of being a “partner in mobility”, RDW would not be able to respond to all requests for information without a data platform.
Increases Access to Creative Talent: RDW has tapped into a network of developers and individuals to build creative solutions on top of its data. RDW business manager Gert Jan Holland says that access to the data has opened up the opportunity for "smart people to think up interesting uses and cases.”
Lessens Cost to Provide Scalable Solution: RDW’s decision to use a cloud-based data solution was hard for some people inside the organisation. But to Gert Jan Holland, it was an easy decision. “We are government, not an [information and communications technology] company. We should not be in the business of building [technical] infrastructure,” says Holland. “At first the IT team said, ‘Why does it have to be in the cloud?’ Once they saw the load and the way the platform supported these massive spikes, they were very happy that they did not need to worry about it!”
RDW is a non-departmental public body funded by fees. It performs its tasks on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.
As the Dutch vehicle “type-approval” and registration authority, with tasks in the area of the licensing of vehicles and vehicle parts, supervision and enforcement, registration, information provision and issuing documents. RDW carries out tasks that are in close cooperation with various partners in the mobility chain. This provides RDW with a clear position in the chain and a mission to be a “partner in mobility”.
Dutch legislation is based on European directives. These are increasingly related to agreements that are made in the context of ECE and EU. RDW participates in various consultation structures in which the international regulations are prepared.