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ODI works on ‘toy’ model for data policy makers


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Open Data Institue (ODI) has unveiled a project to develop a ‘toy’ model to help government policy makers predict the outcomes of their data policies.

It has begun to look for a partner in what it describes as the development of agent based model of the data economy – in which organisations use data and analytics for operational efficiencies and in tactical and strategic decisions.

The term ‘toy’ model refers to one that is abstract in nature and focused on the broad structure, rules and interactions of key agents – rather than being driven by large databases.

The project is scheduled to run through to February of next year and is part of the ODI’s innovation programme, exploring the feasibility of new methods for policy makers to use data in their decision making.

It will involve two phases: first in creating a detailed specification for the model; then in building a prototype that can be independently run by the ODI.

Alternative approach

A blogpost by the institute’s head of monitoring, evaluation and learning Philip Horgan and technical writer Rebecca Ghani says the project offers an alternative approach to much of its work, which centres on practical advocacy – proposing, experimenting and iterating advice based on practical experience.

By contrast, this approach will focus on whether it is possible to simulate the impact of different data policy interventions on the data economy using agent based models. These can make it possible to generate insights into the behaviour of the complex systems in which agents act.

“In addition to exploring how to design and build these types of models, we are also interested in if, and when, such simulations can be useful for policymakers,” Horgan and Ghani say in the blog. “Like any type of model or emerging method, we know that it will not be perfect, infallible or useful in every context.

“However, through practical research and development, we hope to be able to contribute to the conversations around these techniques in other sectors, and their application for policymaking.”

They add that the ODI will make all the outputs of the project available under an open licence.

Image from justgrimes, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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