Opening open data

The world of open data seems elusive.  It appears to be beyond my reach at times.  I scrabble and scramble yet progress remains painfully slow.  It is like a Kafka novel with obstacles at every turn.

It’s not that we don’t have the ideas or the people to implement them.  It’s that we are stuck in a Catch 22.  On one hand we can’t get on with anything until we have proved that there is a business case while on the other hand, how can we prove a business case without getting on with it.  Our audience is split between those that want caution and those that want action.  Perhaps we have not had the ringing endorsement for an open data plan that I would have looked yet I’m not convinced that anyone is actually stopping us.

The usual cries of who else is doing this ring in my ears.  People say to me ‘so what’ in that I can tell them lots that is going on yet the evidence that open data will make a difference is less conclusive.  Or is it?  Steve and I have certainly been around visiting organisations that are making a difference.  Our trip to Leeds to see their Data Mill North and its associated private sector ecosystem is a good case in point.

Add to this our experience from Edinburgh who have run their Edinburgh Apps event three times now and created some exciting and useful developments around road safety, substance abuse, short term land use and bringing in tourists to name but a few.

Don’t forget about the great work that is going on further afield in Copenhagen, Chicago and New York.

A group of us met earlier in the week to plan what next.  After the usual introductions and hand wringing we decided that the only way to ever push away from the shore was to get on and do something.  We identified a series of databases that we could readily get our hands on and that would be easy enough to publish.  Steve is going to have a look at whether we can use the Data Mill North as a platform while Simon and Catherine are going to look at a comms plan to get some interest from the market.

We are planning a hack for the new year with Durham University’s Students Entrepreneur Society and this should fit very nicely into that.

So now we have a plan.  We have worked out what we are going to let into the wild, how we’re going to publish it, how we’re going to whip up some enthusiasm and have an event planned to see if we can prove there is value in this or not.

We do these things not because they are easy.  We’re meeting together in a month’s time to button these off.

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