What is Open Data?
For purposes of clarification open data is defined by the Open Knowledge Foundation as “Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”
As stated on the Open Data Institute website, open data has proven benefits for our economies and citizens. The Shakespeare Review identified £6.8bn of total value in UK public sector data, a report in 2011 estimated that the EU market for public sector data would grow to €40bn per year, while McKinsey estimated a global market powered by open data from across seven sectors would create between $3tn and $5tn a year.
A key principle is that all public data should be accessible openly, within the limitations of personal and commercial confidentiality. This should also apply to data generated and held within public sector contracts.
For example Birmingham City Council’s policy on open data (v3 2014) includes the following statement:
“The provision of open and linked data features significantly in the Leader’s Policy Statement (LPS) issued in June 2014 and the subsequent action plans. The availability of timely and good quality open data is required to support a number of key initiatives, including the Smart/Digital City and the devolution of services to communities.
The LPS states that the Council will establish organisational arrangements and funding streams for the Smart City Commission Board, to begin delivery of the Smart City Roadmap in the next three years. This includes a commitment to procure and establish an open data portal and identify and start the release of open data sets. [i]“
Open data offers opportunities for local councils to work in more efficient ways and to stimulate economic activity. As the council is looking to new models of service delivery, services should position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves e.g. when undergoing major service redesign and arising from major systems development.
The sharing and open access to datasets using common technical and data standards amongst public sector organisations will turn data into helpful information and business intelligence. It also has the potential to accelerate business growth and increase entrepreneurial opportunities. And it has the potential to encourage social innovation by citizens and communities.
To quote Birmingham City Council’s open data policy: “A Smart City is not measured by the amount or type of technology it deploys – it is a measure of how citizens, business and communities engage and utilise it to achieve their goals and objectives”
The CIty Council’s review of Information, Communication Technology and Digital Services (ICT&D) as part of its Business and Budget Plan 2016+ includes the following extracts:
- Change in ICT&D technologies are rapid and growth in the uptake of the latest, emerging technologies such as mobile devices, social media, and high-speed broadband together with the use of open data present huge opportunities for the Council, our communities, citizens and suppliers.
- Potential benefits from ICT&D include access to and exploitation of a wealth of available ‘Open Data’.
- As part of the Future Council Programme we will deliver an information management strategy (aligned to corresponding strategies and created utilising the governance framework) that recognises a one council- single version of the truth for identity and address. The Information Management Strategy will describe how ‘Open Data’ will be used to support our digital and creative businesses and how in the future we will work with community based social media to open up decision making and policy debate.
- The initiatives of ‘Open Data’, intelligence and data transparency are in line with Central Government policy; more public data is being made available online, which includes publishing information about service costs, contracts and plans.
There are similar commitments by other local authorities in the region e.g. the open data strategies and projects featured in Wolverhampton’s digital strategy.
Working in partnership is the key approach to releasing and utilising public sector open data, determining the data to release requires working closely with citizens and the business communities. Fostering this relationship will then increase the uptake and usage of the data allowing the benefit of transparency, decision making and economic growth to be achieved.
This was the key finding of the final evaluation of the Birmingham Data and Skills Hub – “The most important lesson from this project is that the greatest assets to the open data movement are the individuals and local organisations who can use data to achieve their aims. The interactions with the user community were vital for the success of the project and should become the norm for future open data work”.
A node of the Open Data Institute (ODI) has been established in Birmingham with the support of Innovation Birmingham. This demonstrates the local commitment to exploit some of the opportunities of open data.
It is recommended that the city council explores working with the ODI node to further develop its processes and procedures within a framework for the release of data and links to start ups.
[i] Service Development Opportunities Birmingham City Council Open Data Policy 3.0 page 6 of 7