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 unconferneces, 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.
Escaping the gravity of the capital
Just NOT having it in London is a good thing. Holding events away from London can be an incentive.
There’s a distinction between the benefit of open data on the city, versus the value of an open data conference in the city. There’s a clear basic financial benefit to the city in terms of hotel rooms, food and entertainment from events, as long as people are prepared to travel to attend the event. One event in an area succeeding gives other confidence to happen.
Travel is not just about money, but also about time to travel there.
Buy in from the host city makes a big difference. The city saying “no” to some investment in an event can kill it. There needs to be some vision for the city of the benefit, so you can sell it to them.
Unconferences can be wooly as to what the benefit is. Open Data Camp is deliberately avoiding London, both because too many events happen in London, and because people can be resident to it. You get local character and flavour, and you get people who might never come to an event if it wasn’t near to them. And they still get national organisations coming – because they don’t get out of London much, and get to make connections with local projects.
Connections make benefits
Those connections can turn into valuable projects. You’re not just connecting geographies, but different forms of organisation. People who don’t do data can start to see it in a physical way – to understand the data that describes the city they can see around them.
Can we improve the outcomes by theming the event? Or would that corrupt unconferences? People tend to take advantage of the location to discuss local issues – like the interface/divided communities session at this event. And that can be very valuable – giving people insights into unexpected uses of data.
The Queen’s University, Belfast computing department is often empty of a weekend. Why not use the space for events like this. Let people come in and find out new things. Being physically in different places give opportunities to explore new technologies, like iBeacons or VR tech.
Look at the data you have, and the data you can get, and the technologies are coming along – and then the space to think about how to combine them. Ideas start at those sorts of meetings – and we need those case studies.
Catalysing other fields
Bring in other kinds of people – English Lit students could find open data techniques useful in extracting what they need from books. You can avoid massive wastes of time and effort by bring people together in a way that allows them to realise what they can offer to each other.
At the moment, Open Data Camps are open data people talking to open data people. Could we have a Friday where we open up our experts to other people. That means we could say we advised start-ups and students, and contributed to the economy.
Pre-activation of people – letting them plan for hacker spaces, or offering open data surgeries would be possible ideas.
We’re trying to capture the sessions via Drawnalism, and we’re putting that on the blog. But should we be pushing onwards wit it, telling case studies and stories around events or projects that spin out of open data camp sessions and meetings?
But what about the wider benefit of open data to local economies? There’s no E-MC^2 equation of open data benefit yet.