Tag Archives: data

Getting your head around open data

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Ben Proctor.

Open data is simply data that anyone can access, use or share. Data, in this context, could be any piece of information. The Open Data Institute has a helpful guide to open data.

Most data is not open. Data might be closed (locked within an organisation or a department), shared (available to people by agreement or because they are in particular roles) or open (where anyone can access it, use it or share it). The Open Data Institute calls this the Data Spectrum.

To be open data has to be published (on a website for example) but publishing it is not enough. To be open it has to have a licence which makes it clear that anyone can use or share it. This means that it isn’t possible to charge people for open data. The format that data is published in also has an impact on how useful it is by different groups of people. There are other factors that can affect how useful open data is. Sir Tim Berners-Lee has described a star-rating system for more and more useful open data

Any organisation that owns data can choose to open it. In the UK, parts of the public sector have opened lots of their data. You can find lots of open data from the UK government on the data.gov.uk portal. In Wales the Welsh Government has published an open data plan and set up a website to make it easier to find geographical data

A key argument for opening data is that it enables people to build services using that data. Because people don’t need to build the infrastructure to collect the data this means services can be delivered much quicker and it enables more innovation. It is not all a one-way street. As people build services on a dataset, they frequently clean and improve the data, spot errors, and mix it with other datasets to generate unique insights. Many public bodies publish open data with the aim of enabling innovative services. Many private companies are also publishing open data for the same reasons. Jeni Tennison (now Chief Executive of the Open Data Institute) wrote about open data business models a few years ago

Some examples of services built, at least in part, on open data include:

  • City Mapper which gets people around London using a combination of open data from Transport for London, its own data and algorithms
  • Mastodon C which has published insights into antibiotic prescribing based on open data 

There is a thriving community working with open data across the UK. Regular Open Data Camps are held, the most recent taking place in Cardiff in February 2017.  At that camp there was a workshop on Open Data for beginners which is written up here

What are your thoughts on Open Data, and how it could help government and public services in Wales?

Ben is the Technical Director of ODI-Cardiff. ODI Cardiff is the Open Data Institute node in Wales and is working to enable innovation with data across Wales and beyond. He is also a director of The Satori Lab. Linkedin. Medium.


GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Why should I be thinking about Data Maturity?

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Dyfrig Williams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the Cutting Edge Audit project for the Wales Audit Office, which looks at how we can challenge our existing use of data and technology and assumptions that we normally take for granted. We’ve been thinking radically about how we might use new technology to transform the way that we work.

I’ve been working on how the Wales Audit Office acquires data to give us deeper knowledge and fresh insight. That’s involved looking at how we produce and make use of Open Data, how we make data accessible and data warehousing.

Why is Data Maturity important?

In the course of my work I’ve come across some organisations who are making fantastic use of the data that’s available to them, such as the Queensland Audit Office. But we’re very much at the start of our journey, so how do we begin?

Data Maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data, and the concept gave us a tangible vision for our work. We began looking for frameworks that could be helpful (and there’s more out there than you can shake a stick at), and we found Data Orchard’s Framework to be particularly simple and user friendly. It’s especially useful as it’s looking at what this looks like for not-for-profit organisations. I particularly like this breakdown of it from a great post by Ben Proctor, as it’s so easy to understand:

  1.     Ad-hoc gathering of data in some areas
  2.     Pulling data together centrally
  3.     Starting to use data looking backwards
  4.     Using data in real time to manage the organisation and move resources rapidly
  5.     Modelling the future before making decisions to enable better decisions to be taken
  6.     Modelling the future the organisation wants and working backwards to understand what needs to happen now to deliver that future

This framework has really informed my thinking. It’s helped me think about how we get to point 6, where we’re modelling the future that the organisation is working towards, and ensure that the things that I’m working on set us out on the right path beyond the lifespan of the Cutting Edge project.

Learning and sharing

Throughout this project, we’ve been talking to other organisations to learn from what they’re doing, and we’ve been able to learn from good practice and from what they’d do differently if they had their time again. It’s been great learning about how the Office of the Auditor General for New Zealand have reduced the complexity of their systems by making them open by default. Our project has also been working iteratively to produce small tests and prototypes so that we can build on our successes, but also learn from our failures.

This is where unconferences like GovCamp Cymru are really useful. It’s a unique opportunity to meet people who are passionate about improving public services, who share what’s worked well and what they might do differently if they had their time again. If you’re making the most of the data that’s at your organisation’s metaphorical fingertips, please do give me a nudge at GovCamp Cymru – I’d love to have a chat with you so that I can learn from what you’re doing.

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Dyfrig Williams is a Good Practice Exchange Officer for the Wales Audit Office, where he encourages public service improvement through knowledge exchange. He is on Twitter as @DyfrigWilliams and blogs about public service improvement at http://medium.com/@DyfrigWilliams.

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GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.