NOTES OF WEST MIDLANDS OPEN DATA FORUM STEERING GROUP WEDNESDAY, 16TH SEPTEMBER 2015
Attended by: Susannah Goh (Chair) (BCU)
Stuart Lester (Digital Birmingham, BCC)
Pauline Roche (RnR Organisation)
Ted Ryan (RnR Organisation)
Bethan Bishop (Heart of England NHS Trust)
Paul Beckley (Centro)
Hugo Russell (Innovation Birmingham)
Andrew McKenzie (Open Mercia)
Chris Price (Secretary) (digiconsultancy)
Apologies: Gavin Broughton (Data Analyst)
- Matters Arising
The notes of the previous meeting of 24th June 2015 were agreed. CP reported that Gavin Broughton had been in touch expressing interest in re-joining the Steering Group. PB and BB reported on the potential links with the Smart City Alliance and the need to create a 2‑way conversation. SL mentioned the issues locating interested parties/lead officers in local authorities, a concern which is likely to be mirrored in the emerging West Midlands Combined Authority.
- Members’ Updates
SG described her new job in BCU as Director of the Institute for Health and Quality of Life, which meant that this would be her last meeting as Chair. However, she would continue to keep in touch and will promote open data within her role.
PR and TR, as RnR, had delivered the three training sessions on open source/open data issues, spreading the word among social enterprises and voluntary sector about creating a digital footprint. They were engaged via Open Mercia in the bid for a Birmingham Open Data Institute (ODI) Node and have a proposal for undertaking an Open Data Commission in order to bring the local threads together.
AM as well as working on the ODI Node bid, is working on a wikihouse being built near him – an open platform to allow people to construct an eco‑friendly building.
SL was still populating the Data Factory with mainly asset‑based data – e.g. street lights monthly extract – and CRM data. He is chasing Amey for data. Through the Opticities European project he is looking to release traffic flow/speed data sourced from UTMC. There were some concerns about release of data which might expose service issues. There were examples of data being exploited e.g. pothole information being abused. The ERDF funding for the Digital Academy had now expired and responsibility lay with the LEP.
BB – There had been a recent meeting re data of health staff pulled together by Digital Birmingham but there was a continuing difficulty in identifying sufficiently strong drivers such that resources were allocated to the release of data. Clearly there was much data available although requiring aggregation in order to depersonalise. What are needed are applications of direct value to Health, preferably with a multi‑agency link, eg work in Wales on vulnerable persons. One possibility might be linking health and mobility issues. There were also concerns about the quality of data and compatibility of sources between and within Trusts. There were also issues in release of real‑time data, eg A&E queues, as there were no cross‑charging mechanisms between Trusts.
HR reported that in Innovation Birmingham the ODI node application was underway to be submitted at the end of September with a presentation in mid‑October and, hopefully, a decision by the end of the month.
The Innovation Engine 2 application was under development and Open Data was referenced in the bid.
PB reported on the kick‑off event re transport apps on the 8th October. He was continuing to press for an open API for transport data and National Express were considering development on a model of low use is free, higher use attracts a charge (a Freemium model).
Centro was West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) ready. The future will see it move across to WMCA under a TUPE arrangement. This may help build pressure for data release. The focus of WMCA was the economy and transport. A proposal for the WMCA had been submitted to Government but details were not widely known.
CP referred to the opportunity to bring attention to open data as part of the formation of WMCA and a role for WMODF to provide advice. He circulated a brief note of the areas which could be covered, based on the discussion at the previous meeting.
- WMODF’s Future
Following the range of activities shared during the update, SG proposed that the meeting identified which activities WMODF should try to progress in the near future. Following wide discussion, these proposals emerged:
- The ODI node, if the bid is successful, would be a major achievement for the West Midlands and would bring attention to Open Data that could assist in creating pressure for change and action in organisations. It would be part of a structure of local, national and international links (eg International Open Data Conference). SL suggested that a conference be held (and an associated unconference – PR), bringing in expertise from elsewhere, eg Manchester (note: there is an Open Data Camp on 10th/11th October in Manchester). PB suggested that Centro could assist in enabling these to happen.
Proposal 1: Subject to the award of an ODI node, a 1‑day conference/unconference to be organised.
- There was a discussion about the current membership and reach of WMODF. The ODI node in iCentrum would focus on business product development, complementing a co‑ordination/dissemination role for WMODF. It was agreed that there should be wider membership, eg of data businesses, other West Midlands agencies.
Proposal 2: As a first step, Jason Davies of West Midlands Fire Service to be invited to the next meeting (through SL) and the Smart City Alliance links to be established 2‑way (through PB and BB).
- SL pointed out there were existing groups, such as the Regional Data Analysts group and the Mappers group (GIS). It was agreed that it was essential to work with and through existing groups but at present there was no clear mapping of what was happening. TR and PR referred to their proposal for an Open Data Commission and one part of this would be to map what was currently happening, with a focus on drawing together the benefits and best practices of open data. An outline proposal was circulated.
Proposal 3: Members to comment directly on the RnR proposal and PR and TR to progress as possible and report back to the next meeting.
- WMCA was clearly a work in progress and until there was further clarity it was difficult to develop proposals for informing, supporting and influencing. The role of Centro in WMCA was an opportunity for influence on open data.
Proposal 4: Members to monitor WMCA development for review at the next meeting.
- From the discussion about data release, all members reaffirmed efforts to extend coverage and address the ‘hearts and minds’ issue. BB stated the need for everyone to keep informed, set up links and open up knowledge. One possibility to avoid concerns of confidentiality and organisational failures was the creation of a closed data file to provide controlled access. There were many potential and innovative benefits locked up in data such as diabetes incidence or concessionary pass usage.
SG reminded the group of her move. The members expressed their appreciation of her great job as Chair, wished her the best in her new role and asked her to continue to link to the group. SG offered opportunities to broker links with Birmingham City University, eg for student projects.
TR and PR had emailed the group offering to pick up jointly the role of Chair for 6‑12 months. This was enthusiastically accepted. PR proposed that the group met every 2 months which was agreed.
Action: PR to circulate potential future meeting dates.