Digital Birmingham – part of the Share PSI network

Share-PSI 2.0 is “the European network for the exchange of experience and ideas around implementing open data policies in the public sector”. It consists of 44 partners from 25 countries, including Birmingham City Council. Through my work with the West Midlands Open Data Forum I was invited by Digital Birmingham to attend the kick off meeting in April and then the recent workshop which formed part of this year’s Samos Summit.

The Share PSI Network Logo
The Share PSI Network

The Samos workshop had the title “Uses of open data within government for innovation and efficiency” and consisted of a wide range of presentations, a mini-bar camp and a project meeting. Amanda Smith from the Open Data Institute has already written a post about the workshop and an extensive report of the proceedings has been written up by Phil Archer, the project’s technical co-ordinator from the W3C.

So, instead of a report back, here are just four of the things I took away from the Samos workshop:

  • Data quality, or a lack of it, is still a significant issue for many public sector organisations. It can both be a reason for not publishing as well as something that can be improved through publication, especially where feedback mechanisms are provided. In Birmingham, when Open Street Map volunteers created a gritting map from the city’s data they were able to feedback anomalies to the city, which improved their data.
  • We need to get a lot better at telling stories and helping others to tell them. Open Data evangelists aren’t always great at communicating their work. This can mean that the potential impact of our work is not always reached and/or recognised. At the workshop, Julia Hoxha reported that, in Albania, every “domestic media organization has published or quoted at least once the reports released in the Open Data Albania or Spending Data Albania platforms”.  This has been a result of the Open Data Albania project actively working with the media both inside and outside the country.
  • Good case studies of the benefits of open data are needed to encourage ongoing publication. Bart van Leeuwen’s presentation on “Experiences with Open data in the fire department” [pdf] was a highlight of the conference for many. Bart was able to give a range of practical examples of the benefits of open data for him and his colleagues working as firefighters in Amsterdam. It’s heartening to hear such examples as somebody who promotes and uses open data and it provides great material to share with people who want to know the purpose of publishing open data.
  • Everyone wants to know where crime is happening. Amanda Smith gave a very well received paper about the ongoing development of Police.uk. The site has 60m visits since January 2011 and continues to prove a popular resource (Data Unlocked download data from the site, and Mike Cummins recently used police.uk data in a presentation to the Civic Foundry‘s Skill Share week). Knowing what your popular open datasets are likely to be is really useful. I’d like to see more sharing of this between people working in local government. The work that Hampshire Hub are doing in this area could be really valuable, and it’s well worth following.

The next workshop is going to be in Lisbon in December. It’s topic area is Encouraging data usage by commercial developers, an area of obvious interest to us at Data Unlocked =0) The call for participation is already open. I’ve agreed to be on the organising committee and we’d really like to hear from people who are interested in presenting a paper at the workshop. I can certainly recommend taking part, as I gained a lot from the Samos workshop.

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