North East Data Group part 2

This is the second part of the presentation I gave last week to the North East Data group at Campus North on what Durham is up to with Open Data.

I am pleased to say that our elephant has given birth.  Mother and baby are doing well and we are off and running.  We are doing three things in this space to build a business case for doing more and by the spring of next year we hope to have moved from an also ran to being right up there with the best.

The first is a hackathon with Durham Students Entrepreneur Society on 21/22 January 2017.  It will involve a 24 hour event sticking to Major League Hacking rules, fuelled by beer and pizza. 

The overall theme is Improving the prosperity of Durham City and we are looking for solutions in these areas:

  • Maximising occupancy, hotel rooms, accommodation, business premises.
  • Increasing business, better footfall, increased retention, greater spend.
  • Using our culture, the Cathedral, the Castle, Lumiere
  • Safety, the problems that we have had with the river.

The second is a Smart County Initiative led by Business Durham. We’ve put some seed money aside to encourage the growth of new services and products.  One of Durham’s strengths is its low population churn.  Most people who are born in the county die there and this lends itself well to a living lab.

The Smart County Initiative will bring all sectors together and will use a combination of council and health data to create new products and services to address issues such as Obesity, Poverty, Alcohol abuse, Self-harm and Smoking.  Loneliness is something we also hope to be able to address.

The third is that we are going to let some data into the wild.  We have agreed a deal to use Data Mill North to host our data and we want to work with companies, individuals and groups to understand what they can do with the data we are releasing, what else they would like and what is missing.

We have around a hundred data sets to publish and are working closely with the Federation of Small Businesses to get this off the ground.  We are working with Data Mill North throughout November and hopefully you will start to see some data appearing in the early new year.

To summarise then data is not just about numbers, spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations.  It is a far richer medium than the two dimensional.  It is filled with beauty and wondrous things.  I could argue that all humanity is data, locked up inside our nucleic acids and that what you see are merely the physical vessels that carry it around.  The hardware.

Data projects are hard, people are sceptical and you need to convince a lot of them.

You can approach your project in two ways, by trying to solve a problem or by looking for opportunities.  We need to open our minds to the possibilities that data contain.  Be more romantic.  Stop looking for answers.  Look for better questions.

People see things that you don’t.  Let them wander through your data.  Public data should be released into the wild.  After all its theirs anyway.  And finally there is gold in them there hills.

2 thoughts on “North East Data Group part 2

  1. Didn’t Durham once have something called a Data Observatory? What happened to them? Did the Big Data gang snuff them out in a turf war? Were they sacrificed for not being on the right zeitgeist? Looking forward to a probing investigation on BBC Inside Out.

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