Category Archives: OpenData

Who can we trust with #opendata in the UK?

The opendata landscape is complicated as Simon Briscoe has pointed out in his excellent map.

However recently some of the players have disappeared as Giuseppe Solazzo explains and these are the groups like the Open Data User Group that in some way represented ‘data users/consumers’.

Some might argue that all will be fine now that Mike Bracken is the Chief Data Officer. However Mike is a busy man in effect with two jobs and presumably he is more likely to concentrate on projects where there is overlap between his two roles? Is it really likely that he will benevolently take a wider view across the whole of the open data landscape and drive wider change?

So who can we trust? Who is going to represent data creators, consumers and curators?

There are plenty of interested parties around such as GDS, ONS, ODI and the Cabinet Office but they clearly have their own agendas.

So I ask again who is going to represent the wider open data community?



How much does the public sector spend on data?

I gave a short internal presentation this week about open data. As I was writing a few thoughts came to mind based on chats with data users.

One of the intriguing questions is – how does the public sector spend on data? This could be data being bought from other public sector bodies or the private sector.

For example the BBC buy weather data from the Met Office. How much do bodies pay in licence fees to Ordnance Survey every year? Someone suggested that it might be several million pounds a year. Of course the Trading Funds have a financing model to follow and are expected to generate income.

What about private sector data? Apparently it is quite common to pay for Dun numbers (Dun and Bradstreet) in government. How much does this cost each year? Do we know how much is going to be paid to the Royal Mail for postcodes address information?

Has anyone ever investigated this topic and done a map looking at the flow of data/money in and out of the public sector?

Just curious and whether there is something here about the wider benefits of open data to the public sector.

Thoughts and comments more than welcome.

What is the problem with the National Information Infrastructure?

I was foolish enough to run a session at the excellent Open Data Camp about the National Information Infrastructure #UKNII

The reason I thought this could be foolish is that the words National Information Infrastructure are not exactly sexy. In fact it all sounds a bit boring. So I was glad that anyone turned up all – which they did so thank you to all the attendees.

So what did we talk about? Here goes….

Is National Information Infrastructure in fact the wrong name – should it be called the National Data Strategy? This was my point. The name at the moment sounds a bit like a Librarian (much as I love them) talking about the Dewey Decimal system. A bit dry and academic which of course it is not. Data is a bit of a catchy word at the moment as is strategy – so maybe a new title is in order?

I did point out that the concept is not new. Parliament published a fact sheet about it in 1995 where they stated that the cost could be very large so that care would be needed planning such a project. Interestingly the Open Data User Group in its recent paper say that opposite and that any cost would more than outweigh the benefits.

I note passing that on Wikipedia there is an entry for the National Information Infrastructure – but that is for the US. Where is the entry for the UK? Any volunteers?

We also discussed the perceived lack of momentum around the subject. Certainly the Transparency Team (a good number who gave up their weekend to be at the event) in the Cabinet Office have done a lot of work on the NII and are engaged with three pilot departments which sounds very promising but where is the wider enthusiasm and where are the evangelists? Who knows anything about it the UKNII but a handful of data geeks?

It was suggested that the possible appointment of a National Chief Data Officer might be the trigger to pull things together across government and generate some momentum. Notice the job title is not (Chief Information Officer.)

Another point (made on the way out) was where is the list that people can make suggestions about what should be included in the National Infrastructure? It is worth reading the Open Data Institute take on this topic and their starter list on a wiki.

We did agree that each specialist group will have ideas as to what should be included on such a list but that as more suggestions are made a Venn diagram would start to pick up the consistently mentioned data sets.

In this context in a later session it was mentioned that there are at least two different sets of data about the height of beaches which can cause problems for the military when planning exercises. It made me think – ‘ha another item for the Infrastructure list of data sets’. Who else would this seemingly innocuous information (or data) help? Councils managing beaches; fishermen, lifeguards, companies planning green energy installations..? There are probably a lot more.

That’s my round up of this session. Thanks to everyone for coming along and hopefully there might be a few more evangelists in circulation.


What has the National Information Infrastructure ever done for me?

You might start by asking ‘what is National Information Infrastructure, I have never even heard of it?’ Well now is the time to learn more, so read on. But first lets agree to call it #UKNII to save space.

The idea of #UKNII has been around a while and roughly a year ago the Cabinet Office started a process to flesh out what such a concept might mean in reality. You can read more here on what they have done so far.

Excellent, but progress has been a bit slow and the approach slightly limited so the Open Data User Group (ODUG) – I am a member – decided to push things along by writing its own report. The aim is to stimulate a wider discussion and give a bit of a structure to that conversation.

If its recommendations were taken up imagine a UK where there was just one agreed data set for GPs practices – currently there are eight or nine. What if this data was easy to link with post code data…or hospital admissions…or census data… You might then start to have a long list of things to say that the #UKNII has done for you, me and everyone else.