4.0 Using Open Data
The data required by public sector organisations originates in many different organisations; therefore in order to release as much data as possible a cross sector approach collaborating between many different actors is required.
Many organisations across the EU are choosing to use CKAN as the platform to release their data, or to record their metadata. The advantage of this is that the information can be downloaded at the granular level of the local city region or aggregated with neighbouring datasets across the country or even the EU.
The principle of this was established as a result of the EU INSPIRE directive where combining and sharing datasets across borders and across sectors would allow the analysis of data to tackle the environmental challenges facing the EU area. Within the UK a variety of tools were developed to help ease the publishing of data. BCC uses “MISO portal” an online tool from Dotted Eyes that takes the data (spatial) and also captures the metadata (also in a standard format, UK GEMINI v2) automating the upload to data.go.uk which then federates to the wider area of the EU data portal.
To help further standardise the publication of data the ODI is acting as the “national” guide for the UK. They publish guides and maturity models here: http://theodi.org/guides, which guide various organisations in the principles of releasing data, covering a variety of topics such as:
- Metadata technical standards
- Business cases to facilitate releasing data
Information and research on Data maturity models for the UK social sector is being done by Data Evolution, a project being undertaken by Data Orchard CIC and DataKind UK, and their latest report (2016) can be found on the DataEvolution.org.uk website.
The city can work with the local ODI node and other appropriate organisations to develop and implement these models.
Supporting businesses to utilise the data released is a key area of ensuring take up, understanding and maximising the value of the data. The well-established practice of running hack days and data dives helps to tease out problems in the data, capture the needs of the business community and build relationships that can ensure the right data is being released.
Within the UK, the establishment of the ODI Nodes is used to share best practice, foster commercial relationships and create a focal point for the local region. Birmingham has an ODI Node based out of the iCentrum building, supported by Innovation Birmingham in order to encourage the incubator companies to build business models around open data.
On behalf of the businesses the lobbying of public sector to encourage release of certain datasets can be taken on to a certain extent by the ODI Node. To date this has been done primarily by WMODF and by Open Mercia where a range of people beyond business interests come together to work with data. A key part of the open data ecosystem is having groups and organisations that represent the different users and Birmingham has established many groups.
At a national level the wider ODI and the Future Cities Catapult are actively lobbying and promoting the use of open data from an economic perspective e.g. http://theodi.org/guides/engaging-reusers. Central Government is looking at action plans for each department around the release of open data and DEFRA has committed to release over 8000 datasets by mid-2016. It needs to be noted that many local councils are still more driven by transparency aims than economic benefit, when opening up data.
To make open data work for a business, a large market is required. This means that comparable data needs to be available for large geographies so it can be combined for national or regional services. Therefore cities need to establish data release standards that allow developers to match data and create new services and products utilising the same data with the potential of a large customer base.
More work is still to be done on growing the skills base when working with data; this will help foster greater business growth. The city needs to work with the ODI node to develop a relevant curriculum.
At the local level it is the community interest in openness and transparency that takes precedent around open data.
The West Midlands Open Data Forum brings together local activists with advocates within public sector bodies to help build the demand and the business cases, and to convey the pros and cons of releasing data. The forum encourages honest, frank and open discussions that recognise the views of both those wanting data to be released, and those organisations that have licensing or real world examples of where releasing data can create dilemmas – these are discussions worth having.
The two well established measures of community demands of data release are the Freedom of Information process and the setting up of online forums where requests can be made. The latter is often implemented as part of an approach to Smart Cities to help gauge the public desire to change how services are delivered and identify new ways that communities can be involved. Birmingham City Council uses the Birmingham Speaks website for such discussions.
SharePSI best practices: Enable feedback channels for improving the quality of existing government data and Establish an Open Data Ecosystem