Open data ecosystems

The aim of the session was to map some open data ecosystems – because, as session leader Leigh Dodds of Bath:Hacked put it:

“We are often struggling to work out where the value is coming from.”

He added: “We often try to identify users and publish case studies, but there are lots more people working in open data than just publishers and users, so we want to try and capture some of these. We want to test out some roles, and find out how they fit together in a value analysis.”

Dodds had come up with a list of potential roles, which he was keen for the session to test out. These are available at bit.ly/odcamp-mapping: along with a sample map of Bath:Hacked’s own ecosystem.

When it came to thinking about value, he argued: “There are two types of value. There is tangible value – money, goods, services – so one thing we can usefully do is follow the data and find out where it goes. But there is also intangible value – the value we get when data is provided and analysed and fed back for engagement.

“We want to highlight what goods and data are being exchanged and what intangible value it is generating. One reason for mapping is we can see how different systems are doing, so we can surface common patterns.”

Drawing the ecosystem map

People attending the session were asked to try drawing their own ecosystem maps or diagrams, using the suggested roles. Did this work, and was it useful? Those attending the session said it had certainly prompted debate, with a government body noting that it couldn’t say much about its users beyond itself and its immediate partners.

From the other end, as it were, a user who described herself as “a long way downstream” of this kind of data aggregator said the maps made her aware of just how many organisations were involved in getting data to her.

She suggested that this should make those organisations more aware of their role as filters; and other participants agreed that there needed to be more discussion of how different organisations were involved in adding quality markers, tags, or otherwise adding value.

The open data food chain

“If we think of open data as a food chain, something that changes as it goes along, so it comes out in a different form from the way it went in, then recognising that, and the social difference [at each stage] is important,” the ‘downstream’ contributor suggested, in a bid to sum up the discussion generated.

Dodds concluded by asking, if the idea was useful, how it could be taken forward. Participants suggested the maps should be shared, perhaps as Google Docs. One argued that the value was both in sharing and then in identifying a community of users interested in doing more work with them. Dodds can be reached at @ldodds with ideas…

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