Top 10 Tips

TOP 10 TIPS for exploiting OPEN DATA

For Public Service Leaders – Councillors and Strategic Managers

  1. Principles: Public data to be open where not personal or commercially sensitive – don’t stop with the legally required minimums. Establish clear, long-term commitment from the top and create a roadmap (1).  Be positive to innovation through external data analysis so aim to release data in the most beneficial format (2). Build open data requirements into contracts and release open contracts (3).
  1. Benefits: Extensive analysis internationally (4) and in EU (5) show the major economic potential; in the UK, the Shakespeare Review (6) identified an overall impact of Public Sector Information of £68 bn per year. Transport for London have over 5,000 developers registered and have had hundreds of applications developed, reaching millions of users (7).
  1. Costs: Make data open, ie free, not chargeable – the financial payback follows (8). Build open data into the extracts/analyses needed for management and reporting. Develop automated open data releases (through APIs (9)) to provide up to date/real-time data at little on-going cost.  Release the base data gathered to answer FoIs.  Free hosting may be available, eg Birmingham Data Factory (10).
  1. Legislation and Policy Commitments: There are many requirements such as the Local Government Transparency Code (11), Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulation (12), European Directives (13), Open Data White Paper (14). There is guidance and assistance from organisations such as the LGA (15) and the ODI (16)
  1. Governance: Identify strategic management and political leads for open data and set and monitor targets. Information is the lifeblood of the public sector justifying the need for a Chief Information Officer (17) or even an Office of Data Analytics (18).
  1. Co-operation/Collaboration: It’s early days. We are all learning and willing to share experience.  Local organisations can help, eg local ODI node (19), WM Open Data Forum (20), Boilerhouse (21), RnR (22).  The formation of the WM Combined Authority (23) is unique opportunity to share effort and approach across the region.  TfL (7) see open data as a way of crowdsourcing innovation.
  1. Barriers: Reluctance of middle managers – need to demonstrate value and make part of the job. Concerns over data quality – ask for help improving it.  Too big a task – start with small successes and build.  There is an increasing range of help available (24,25,26)
  1. Confidentiality: There are well-established processes to protect sensitive data; every PSI has got them eg Wolverhampton (27). Data can be anonymised and/or aggregated to remove traceability (28).  .  For sensitive data, build closed data sets accessible to researchers or contractors under disclosure rules.
  1. Case Studies: There are many directories of data released, European (29), UK (30) and local (31), and libraries of case studies (32) (33). There is a simple guide to the data spectrum by the ODI (34). For transport in London there are apps arising from TfL data release (35) and some business case studies (36).
  1. Standards, Licensing and Best Practice: There is much useful guidance from ODF (37), ODI (38), Europe Share‑PSI (39), github (40) covering many issues including metadata and data extraction tools.