Power shift


So it’s City Camp Brighton coming up over this weekend of March 4th-6th.

There seem to be two positions on open data. Some people say “just release the data” and others simply point out that data in itself does not give us knowledge. Imagine a scientist releasing all her research data and never writing it up. How do we make sense of it?

Local information systems are interactive portals for accessing data by Ward and other local boundaries. They allow organisations (with some money) to publish their data out in a more digestible but interactive way – and there are some decent examples out there. @instantatlas is the leading product and has been widely used for disseminating data attached to needs analysis reports. It’s popular in Public Health across the UK and beyond. In Brighton we have the ‘best of breed’ technology but it’s useability is not great at present. Moreover, the data is stuck behind the scenes and can’t be re-used (in theory you can export the data but it’s a manual process).

I would say there is a role for local information systems as they are presently constituted for at least the next two or three years (depending on what steps are taken now) particularly to help ensure voluntary sector orgs have good access to data and to support democratic accountability. And LIS suppliers will no doubt adapt their offer to sit on top of linked data – that could really work if they can find a way to compete in the open source world. Local Strategic Partnerships may still be their customers.

There will always be a role for high quality analytical reports and briefings from trained analysts. And ‘curation’ of data is critical. Data has to be put together carefully and be well described. OCSI do this really well for nationally published data @datapacks.

We need to further democratise the knowledge creation process and make data more widely available through mulitple channels and this can be done at lower cost to boot.

I think (as do many others) that Brighton needs to get itself a data store where public sector organisations and others can post their data. As quickly as possible this should be “linked data” so that clever apps people can build our ‘ways in’ via web and smart phone.

In time we should expect multiple and better ways to view and analyse data to emerge as long as developers have linked data to play with.

Linked data will change the scene.

The analyst will use whatever tools are available to make sense of things and support better decision making.

Everyone else should be able to do the same.

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