David Stuart

Web Analyst and Consultant

Local Public Data

Posted on | April 20, 2010 | 1 Comment

Most of yesterday was spent at a really interesting Local Public Data Workshop in Birmingham. The aim of the day:

To generate ideas and understanding about what is needed to drive the local public data initiative at a local level

The group was comprised of people from the local councils, and an eclectic selection of “bloggers/developers/activists/academics”. Curiously I found myself labelled as “social media activist”, probably the least appropriate of the four available labels.

Overall the workshop was very positive. There was very little ‘should we be doing this?’ , instead it was ‘how are we going to do this?’ Everyone recognised the risk-adverse culture in local government, and the potential problems that could occur when opening up certain data, but the questions from the council were far more practical – where are the ontologies? what should we open? A bit of a push from central government and the world of local data will be transformed.

There were, understandably, a few questions about data usage, and incentivizing wider use of the data is an area I would like to see discussed more. The need for stories (i.e., case studies by a friendlier name) that sell open data to the wider set of stakeholders was widely recognised, but to really kick-off this virtuous circle of open data we need local stories of unexpected data use. Whilst some data has more obvious wider interest than others (crime, accidents, etc.), let’s incentivize the less popular data sets; show councils that whilst they may not immediately see the wider applications of the data they are opening, other people will.

It should also be noted, that whilst everyone in the room was on board, it’s unlikely that proposition will be universally popular. As one wily old dog pointed out afterwards, one of the risks of opening up the data, that wasn’t mentioned, was to council jobs.


One Response to “Local Public Data”

  1. Michael Grimes
    April 20th, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    It was indeed a good meeting. Bear in mind though that everyone there had been invited because they were already on board, so it was always likely to be positive. The dynamic in that meeting will not be typical of a roomful of council workers, bloggers, developers, activists and academics.

    The challenge is still a big one, but yesterday I think we rose to it well.

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This blog is for letting people know some of the things I am working on, although it is extremely infrequent. As my writing has expanded from blog posts to professional journal articles, and finally to books, the number of blog posts I write on my various blogs has inevitably tapered off.

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