Open Data City? Why would that be a good thing? Well, it could mean local services that are good value for money and that really do the best job for you, the user and council tax payer.
The Open Data City might be a place where info about culture and tourism is all around us, making the fascinating history of Brighton and Hove really come to life in a much more joined up way; importantly, it may come to life for you as you walk around the place, not as you sit at home on a PC.
A more joined-up information space around us might mean closer connections between organisations that have content and data, and people who want to publish, make games, develop new services, connect us together as a closer society.
All lovely cuddly blue-sky stuff. Underneath the idealism, there’s some serious challenges that can be unravelled to help get things to work together; if City Camp starts to identify some of these development issues then I think it’ll be starting off in the right direction.
Firstly, for me, it’s *not* completely about quickly developing some flashy and innovative new projects. Yes, we need to make the case for open data by showing how it works with some simple but exemplary ideas. Yes, we need to paint a picture of how this stuff could really change life in the city – for those who don’t get the way that digital tech is revolutionising our world.
No – my first point is just to assert quietly about the need to survey or map the data that’s out there, and do some simple analysis of how connections could be made between the data clumps. What’s there? What’s missing? Are there digital ‘cold spots’ in Brighton and Hove? This , then, begins to turn into a city-wide data strategy.
Secondly; why have a strategy? Well, it helps if it’s someone’s job to develop clarity and quality in stuff like this. Can we have a small part in recommending that new start ups in the public sector ensure their data is free and accessible, if appropriate? Yes, I think we should. We get that chance by being organised, clear about intentions and outputs, quality and safety.
Third; who should be at the core of this? Whose job is it to make sure the open data city goes ahead? There’s no straight answer to that. My opinion, as a major media data publisher for the last ten years or so, is that it’s up to organisations of all kinds to realise that their own data has massive value and equity, and that data or information strategy must form the core of business development strategies for the future.
If you ‘own’ a business or culture niche space, and you aren’t the experts at capturing and exporting data about it, you’re ignoring the chance to nurture a key asset for your organisation. Look around you: how many companies consider the latent equity of data in their business? In the public sector, I’d suggest it’s one of the important roles funding bodies, the third sector and arts companies need to develop for the future.
Lastly, I’m hoping City Camp explores trust, consistency and factuality in open data activity. I spent eight years developing a publishing proposition that is now successfully driven by a reservoir of culture data about listings, events, venue info and more. we worked with people in culture places to encourage them to add their arts info themselves. They are the experts in this stuff, they know if it’s correct. We need data owners further down the transaction ladder to keep feeding the database; we need to incentivise them toi do it, we must meet their needs. They are the real heroes of Open Data creation.
I found that ‘crowd sourcing’ data didn’t work, if up the chain, media partners were going to be promised accurate, up to date information in consistent form, guaranteed by some sort of SLA. It’s not just about contracts with data users; one of the biggest issues we had was answering the phone to people who had visited a culture place like a museum only to find it was shut. People get angry if data is wrong or out of date.
But if you get it right, you can publish trustworthy data that others can mix and match into new products of all kinds. Look at any modern retail website, particularly something like an estate agent site; you actually are looking at five or ten different data sources melding into one coherent web publishing offer.
If public sector organisations want to support Open Data standards and opportunities, it’s key to produce data output that is good enough, reliable enough, and accessible enough to take it’s place out there in the city data mix.
Here’s hoping. See you at City Camp!