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ODI calls for new drive on open data


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The public sector needs to open up more detailed data for reuse, according to leading officials of the Open Data Institute (ODI).

At a press briefing as part of the ODI Summit yesterday, the organisation’s chair Sir Nigel Shadbolt said there has been encouraging work in opening datasets in areas such as the environment, transport and policing, but there is also a feeling that it could be taken further.

“There is a slight feeling that with this idea that public services ought to provide core sets of data for all of us to use …. that we can do more to provide a higher resolution and fine grain,” he said.

He referred to recent comments on flood data that, although having proved its value in dealing with the response to flooding, could be more immediate and fine grained to make it more effective.


Shadbolt acknowledged that there are still issues complicating the use of data from some sources, but said it is essential to generate more interesting data around infrastructure to take full advantage of new technologies.

ODI chief executive Jeni Tennison said there is an opportunity for the Government to make a stronger commitment to open data, and provide investment, as part of the National Data Strategy which is currently being formulated.

“We need to watch that space around the National Data Strategy, with a new Government coming in and the degree to which it supports the work and type of direction it takes in terms of which type of open data is most impactful in advancing their policy areas,” she said.

The officials identified the need for more data in two areas as important: housing and climate change.

“Anything that touches on climate and the environment should be found more rapidly,” said the organisation’s co-founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “We don’t have time to go through a 5-10 year process.”

Shadbolt pointed to an earlier project collecting data on livestock movements and said it had proved to be fundamental to understanding issues such as methane levels and the environmental footprint of agriculture. He said that being “more aggressive” about collecting such information is likely to be a new front in the open data movement.

Data trust prospect

The ODI’s chief operating officer Louise Birke also indicated that it will make an announcement soon on setting up its first data trust, expected to go into operation next year.

These will provide a legal structure for independent third party stewardship of data and are aimed at providing a new access mechanism to data while building public trust. A series of pilots, announced in November of last year, have focused on the illegal wildlife trade, the plastics industry and city data.

Leading law firm Pinsent Masons, which has worked with the ODI on the pilots, has now joined its Commercial Partnership Programme to support the development of the trusts.

David Beardmore, commercial director at the ODI, said: “It’s important that our partnership programme includes organisations from a range of industry sectors - this allows them and us to better understand the opportunities and challenges posed by data sharing today.”

Image by justgrimes, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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