How can open data help our city?

Cities are important urban areas where many of us live, work, study and raise families. There’s a push to make cities smarter.

Why? A smart city is a connected city – a place where Anna can get around easily because she can see her bus and train schedules in real time. A smart city is effective, integrated and innovative – a city that embraces Gina’s startup and makes it easy for Ali to find the best school for his daughter.

A smart city uses open data. 

Open data is knowledge for everyone; it’s information that can be shared with anyone for any purpose without restriction. We aren’t talking sensitive or personal information, we’re talking about the data that drives decisions and is the lifeblood of a city’s civic landscape.

Open data helps cities connect people and organisations, share information, create new tools, products and services. Using open data well means smarter cities. This series covers everything you need to know about open data for smarter cities. First, let’s get you started.

Where do I start with open data for my city?

It’s hard to know where to start with open data when you’re a city. With many moving parts, stakeholders and a huge wish list, getting started can be daunting. Here’s the key things to consider:

  1. Start with why: Have some idea of why you’ll need open during ata and how you’ll measure the success of your initiative. It doesn’t have to be perfect at the start but it will keep you on track.
  2. Think about delivery: You’ll need a way to deliver open data to the people and organisations that will use it.  There are several platforms and tools available. The right one will play nicely with your existing platforms. Remember, don’t reinvent the wheel!
  3. Find your audience:  Get to know who could use you open data so you can work out their needs. Check FOIA requests – that tells you what people want to know!
  4. Work with your community: You’ll need a community engaged around data, including developers, citizens & businesses – back to those FOIA requests and materials you already publish. What are people interested in? Who are these people?
  5. Make sure your open data all plays well together: Open data doesn’t have to be perfect. Start where you are and keep improving. Think about what’s needed to connect data together from the start: how would you connect data on parks to data on air quality.
  6. Think value, value, value: Think about the benefit of sharing and connecting data. Local government departments will probably be biggest user and benefit the most from connected open data, so keep them onside.

For more resources, the Open Data Institute is a good place to start.

 

 

Information commons for the UK charitable sector

Exploring how 360Giving underpins the data infrastructure for charitable grant making and how it supports an information commons for the sector. It all starts with a little clarity.

For 2 years, I helped funders open up information flow in the non-profit sector by publishing what they fund. This is powerful insight. Understanding the 360Giving data standard is crucial for more funders to adopt it.

Funders need to know:

  1. What is the data standard?
  2. What must be provided, what’s recommended and what’s optional? (and why?)
  3. How does the standard fit together?
  4. How does our data map to the standard?
  5. How can we ensure we’re telling the true story of our funding?

Supporting the standard meant creating tools, reports, and visualisations to provide clarity and provoke discussion (the standard isn’t static, so your voices as funders, data users, tech and non-profits are hugely important).

One question I hadn’t answered to my satisfaction was “How does the standard fit together?”. So I created a data visualisation to explain what 360Giving helps you share and how it’s put together to support good quality open data on funding.

 

360Giving Data Schema Visualised
360Giving Data Schema Visualised

 

With funding information shared in a similar way, charitable grant making organisations can ask & answer questions like:

  • How can we share the story of our funding?
  • Can we find partners by sharing our grant making?
  • How can we tackle our shared missions together?

Sharing data openly connects organisations. That’s why open data is the basis of a shared charitable sector information commons. Historically, the non-profit sector had it tough – no-one wanted to fund infrastructure. Here’s what Friends Provident Foundation‘s Danielle Walker-Palmour had to say at a social investment event:

No one wants to fund infrastructure – we need to think of infrastructure as a commons to achieve our sector’s collective goals.

Times and perceptions are shifting; Barrow Cadbury‘s Connect Fund is making headway investing in infrastructure for social investment. Similar initiatives are expected to follow.

A shared commons of information needs standards that make information simple to combine, easy to understand and usable by organisations of every size. The 360Giving data standard is an integral part of the commons and the sector’s data infrastructure. The goal? A shared information commons that sees more of the non-profit sector working together, seamlessly.

Here’s the original Twitter moment: