MARCH MEETING NOTES
NOTES OF WEST MIDLANDS OPEN DATA FORUM STEERING GROUP WEDNESDAY, 18th MARCH 2015
Attended by: Heike Schuster‑James – Chair (Digital Birmingham)
Pauline Roche (RnR Organisation)
Ted Ryan (RnR Organisation)
Paul Beckley (Centro)
Bethan Bishop (Heart of England NHS Trust)
Chris Price (Secretary) (digiconsultancy)
Apologies: Susannah Goh (B’ham Science City)
Andrew McKenzie (Open Mercia)
Hugo Russell (Innovation Birmingham)
Stuart Lester (Digital Birmingham)
Don Dhaliwal (BIP Online)
- Matters Arising
Susannah Goh sent her apologies, HS‑J agreed to chair in her absence. Andrew McKenzie was attending a Share‑PSI meeting.
- Member Updates
HS‑J reported that the bid to establish a skills‑matching platform had not been successful in Round 5 of the AMSCI (Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative) grant but there was encouragement to reapply for Round 6 – there had been some rule changes.
PB talked about building on the success of the 2‑day Hackathon which identified 10 project areas, of which 2 were still progressing. The aim was to create a pipeline, a continuing process, for data developments and to utilise open data releases by Centro. To this end, Centro was one of the sponsors through the Catapult of the new Centrum building. There was strong support at the top of Centro for open data and pressure on operators to release data, free of charge. There was still some lack of appreciation of the value of open data and some concerns that it might reveal failures and be negative as opposed to the position of welcoming the feedback, learning from failures and accepting an approach of ‘Fail Fast’.
BB talked about a similar approach for Health and to challenges being made to small companies as part of the Digital Health strand. Although there clearly are restrictions on which data sets can be released, technical innovation is needed and the danger of using niche/specialist companies is of getting what you always got. The aim is to create apps locally with the prospect of a national market. PB pointed out the recognised success of Transport for London in releasing data. One issue is moving from the one‑off challenges of hacks into an ongoing cycle of development.
PR mentioned the positive meeting on open data with the Cabinet Office organised by Digital Birmingham on 05/03. The event has received good feedback from Cabinet Office visitors but no direct comments were made about how Birmingham/WM compares to the other cities that were visited. Open Mercia was applying to create an ODI node in Birmingham in partnership with Innovation Birmingham. The aim is for this to be a focal point for open data in the region. The voluntary sector was using the open source tool ‘Tableau’ to process data – tutorials were available on the web. Open Mercia is pitching for the open data camp next year in competition with Manchester, Leeds and Bradford.
There was a short discussion of how to move WMODF forward. Cross-sector working was seen as a clear selling point for WMODF. There is also value to having a small group enabling in depth discussions and learning. However, the role of WMODF still is to bring people together. There is the need to move from a small group and specific events to achieving a culture change. This will require a wide sharing of the story and an effort to influence data providers at Board level. To achieve this, WMODF can work with and through:
- Smart City Alliance to reach business
- Open Mercia to reach data analysts
- RAWM to reach community and voluntary sector
- Centro can reach supply chain and wider sector
- Digital Birmingham can reach wider public sector
Action: SG to discuss potential activity with Rick Robinson.
Another opportunity for WMODF is to cut through the bureaucracy (Open Street Data is a good example) and to work with SMEs (in line with European 2020 agenda). The basis should be cross‑sector in line with the discussions with the Cabinet Office and look to supporting an X‑sector hackathon working with Science City Digital Working Group and the Smart City Alliance.
A successful approach was to work with and within existing events, eg Young Rewired State, BBC’s ‘Make it Digital’, BBC’s Leisure data hack, the launch of i‑centrum.
BB described the BBC initiative of 3‑week placements for ‘small’ projects for 18‑25 year‑olds – a total of 60 students being managed by the Creative Alliance and Wired (based in the Custard Factory). The HEFT was arranging to take a placement and BB proposed that HEFT could host a further placement for WMODF. Potential projects could include Open Data Mapping, ie to record how data was held, presented and visualised within the region. Action: BB to explore hosting further placement for WMODF and to send information to HS‑J.
There was a discussion about what could encourage further data release such as the release of data into closed areas for analysis. Some limited examples, focussed on ‘low‑hanging fruit,’ could demonstrate the value of this approach. Guidance was needed on what formats are best for release to enable analysis. PB referred to a report released in February by Nesta – ‘Data for Good’.
PB referred to the opportunity if National Express would release their real‑time data; for example, analysing delays and impact on bus availability.
TR mentioned the work supported by the Breakthrough Fund. The Voluntary Sector has limited perception of the value of data even though we were in an era of data‑driven funding. They did face issues such as limited data quality and lack of ownership of its data.
PR alerted the group that Meetup held information about Hackathons and Jams in the UK.
- Next meeting was proposed to be in May: Wednesday 13th, 16.45‑18.00. Action: approach HR to see if Innovation Birmingham would host – CP.
- SG to discuss potential activity with Rick Robinson.
- BB to explore HEFT hosting further placement for WMODF and to send information to HS‑J.
- CP to approach HR to see if Innovation Birmingham would host the next meeting on 13th