Following our informative challenge to candidates at the last WM Mayoral election, we sent a Letter – Challenge to WM Mayoral Candidates 2021 final to each of the candidates for this 2021 election. Unfortunately despite receiving acknowledgements of our email, we only received a response from the Liberal Democrat candidate, Jenny Wilkinson which is attached below. We thank her and hope that this disappointing response does not reflect candidates’ views of the importance of digital data and in particular open data.
As a Liberal Democrat, openness and transparency are important to me and I appreciate the benefits of open, widely accessible data, which can be used for the common good.
For Liberal Democrats, evidence-based policy-making is fundamental. As such, we understand the value of plentiful, high-quality data in making the right decisions and, also, in driving innovation. I am keen to see better use of data in the public sector. Additionally, for public bodies specifically, I believe that open data assists accountability and it is important to me that we have transparency in our decision-making.
With regards to data held by West Midlands Combined Authority, my policy would be for open data to be the default position, unless the information is commercially or personally sensitive. In cases where sensitivity is claimed, those responsible for the data will be expected to justify that position and that rationale should be independently reviewed. I would welcome your expert input into the logistical practicalities of data storage and access.
Turning to the specific questions:
- How will you support and resource the West Midlands digital roadmap and in particular use your position to actively bring together public bodies in the region to share standards, expertise and dissemination of Open Data?
Digital connectivity is critical to the growth of our region and I am firmly committed to directing resources towards ensuring that the West Midlands is at the forefront of digital innovation. This includes ensuring that we eliminate digital exclusion and facilitate cross-working between businesses and the educational sector to equip our young people with the digital skills needed for this growth area.
In my view, an important aspect of the mayoral role is in bringing people and organisations together to share knowledge and best practice. I see sharing best practice in managing data as an area where this collaborative approach should be applied and it is an area where shared approaches and technology makes sense, both in terms of the value of collating data across the whole region and the efficiencies this would bring.
- How will you ensure that open release of data is an integral part of private sector contracts for investment and development across the region and that 3rd Sector data is included in the proposed West Midlands Data Store?
While there may be some commercially sensitive aspects of private sector contracts, I believe that this is something that can be built into contracts with regards to data that is not sensitive. Many private entities will hold data that is of use and benefit to wider society and the Combined Authority and other public bodies are in a position to encourage and facilitate sharing of that information for the public good.
The third sector is a growing part of our society and, given that they are generally established for social good, I believe will appreciate the value of data sharing. It is also likely that many of these organisations will hold valuable data. The WMCA has a role in linking up with third sector organisations, that may have limited data capability themselves, to support them in ensuring their data is captured and included in the Data Store.
- What is your view of the future for WMODA and how can WMODF can play a more active and effective role in delivering our aims and your policy?
The WMODA is absolutely vital for our region. Through the analysis of data, we can make better-informed decisions and work more effectively, efficiently and innovatively across our region. I am firmly committed to supporting and growing the WMODA.
I would certainly seek to work closely with WMODF, as I believe it is fundamentally important that we involve experts and work together for the benefit of all across our region.
Thank you for contacting me and I look forward to exploring how we can work together in the event of my election.
Jenny Wilkinson (she/her)
Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands Mayor