Open data careers

What is the professional background of the people who have found themselves working in open data? And how are their careers likely to develop in the future?

The answer to the first question is that: it’s very diverse. A session at Open Data Camp 5 heard from people who had started out as foresters, commercial under-writers and as architects. And from people who had begun their careers in large DIY chains and councils.

Just one participant had been recruited to an open data project from university. And he had studied history while he was there.

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Open Data Case Study: How Belfast found £350,000 in rates revenues using open FHRS data

How do you prove the value of open data?

Here’s how.

 

The Food Standards Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Schemes data is released as open data in near real-time, and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland found a use for it.

Like every authority in the country, Belfast has a ratings shortfall – there are business rates that should be being collected, but aren’t for various reasons. And a bunch of smart people across various parts of the government and city council had a feeling that they could use datasets to improve the collection rate within the city.

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Making Open Data Camp matter – to local economies and more

What is the value to the local economy of open data – and open data unconferences? The wider benefit of open data to local economies is harder to quantify. There’s no E-MC^2 equation of open data benefit yet.

So let’s talk about unconferences, and Open Data Camp in particular.

 

Some organisers have a sense that it stimulates the economy, but no sense of how to measure that. There’s local sponsorship – so they’re expecting some return on that investment. It might be an opportunity to meet potential customers, or to improve their operational intelligence.

Corporate social responsibility is one reason people sponsor: it’s both a community benefit, but it also benefits companies to have a thriving open data ecosystem.

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Whose data is it anyway?

The question of who data belongs to, and whether individuals can have a say in what happens to their data, tends to come up very quickly in some areas. Health, for example.

But there is a concern that the whole issue of data collection and use could become much more fraught with the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation. This is an EU regulation, that is being incorporated into UK law at the moment, via the Data Protection Bill.

 

The GDPR will require organisations to think about the impact of projects on data privacy at an early stage and to appoint a data protection officer. It will introduce large fines for data breaches, tighten up rules on consent, and introduce some new rights; including a right to be forgotten.

The session heard this last right, introduced following a court case involving Google, could have a big impact on open data sets. Because if people remove themselves from datasets, they become less complete.

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Impact of the private sector on demand

Open Data Camp 5, day two, opened with a discussion of the impact of the private sector on open data.

The session was led by Shelby Switzer, who explained she was interested in the subject because she worked for a company in the US [Healthify] that uses a lot of open data about social issues and services.

The problem: “We find the data sucks and we have to put a lot of effort into making it better,” she said. “So, I want to talk about how we get the providers to do better.

“Also, how to prove to my company that it is better to help to improve the data at source, instead of spending so much time cleaning it.”

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Maps, Maps, Maps: good maps, bad maps and accessible maps

What do you do if you find QGIS too easy (and like pain) – you start mapping in R.

But what do people in the room do with mapping, and what data sets do they use?

In Birmingham they used Edubase to plot previous ‘catchment’ areas for schools. Some schools do it from the centre of schools, some from the school gates. And some schools have more than one gate… Some were basing it on distance to the nearest train station. It was about creating boundaries, and then you could set up a tool based on postcodes to see if people are within the boundaries are not.

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ODI Nodes: a state of the nation discussion

One of the first sessions on Sunday morning session at Open Data Camp 5 gave people from the ODI Nodes network the chance to meet and discuss progress, under the Chatham House rule.

There’s some tension between the ODI’s suggestion that the nodes might become more commercial, and some nodes aren’t really keen on that direction. Some – including Bristol – have reorganised on a way that would allow the work to continue even if they are no longer a node.

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Playing with open data in virtual worlds for real benefits

Christopher Gutteridge and Lucy Knight

Open data can be fun and educational. That was the message of the final session of Open Data Camp 5, day one, as Christopher Gutteridge explained how he came to combine his twin passions of Minecraft and open data.

 

“The story of this goes back quite a way. I kept going to an art gallery on the Isle of Wight, and I wanted to join in. So, I decided to build the seafront in Minecraft,” he said.

“I got OpenStreetMap, and traced it, and then modelled it in the Minecraft world. I printed it out in 3D and put the prints in a gallery. And people paid for them! You can still buy them if you go to Ventnor.”

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