ODCamp 7: Going green(er) with open procurement data

Day two of Open Data Camp 7 at Geovation in London started with a session on public sector procurement data, and how it could be used to encourage green initiatives. Ian Makgill introduced the session. His company has a site that captures public tender information and makes it “freely available to everyone” and then analyses the data to say “oh look, this is how much work this company has got” or “here’s a trend in a particular kind of spending.”

However, he said, while this was interesting, it wasn’t having a big impact on organisational behaviour. But: “What we realised is that suppliers are very interested in when contracts are coming to an end. That’s understandable, but it’s also a massive leverage point at which the public could encourage procurement that reduces carbon.”

After all, government spends around £12.9 billion a year on things, and those things are responsible for about 17% of carbon output, because they are things like roads, and airports. So there should be an opportunity for experts and the public to get in and argue that setting a contract in a different way will induce change.

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Open Data Camp 7: Day Two pitches

The day has dawned bright and sunny on Open Data Camp 7’s final day. There’s a greta bunch of people present, the coffee is flowing, and it’s time to pitch. Here’s what’s on today’s menu:

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Building a data ecosystem in a low tech envronment

An Open Data Camp session on helping charities and other low tech bodies create data ecosystem stories improve their impact, led by Pauline Roche.

Liveblogging: prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated in the coming days.

Over 80% of charities in this country operate on tiny budgets – often under £10,000 per annum. There are some similarities with, say, libraries, or arts bodies. There are resources out there for them – like 360giving – but they may not know about them, or have the confidence to use them.

Datakind offers a number of resources. They recently worked with the GLA, to help understand the number of refugees and migrants in London. There isn’t good data out there on that. But charities tend to know where they are – so could they provide that information. So they asked – and it would be fair to say that they weren’t keen on the idea. They said that, if they were going to do this, they needed support in working out what to collect, and how. And the GLA was willing to help take that on.

Many of the charities had no idea of the data already available that they could use, nor how data could help their own work. They paired up data experts with subject experts to figure out what was needed, and how to deliver that data.

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ODCamp 7: Using a pillars of power approach to opening data

One of the final sessions of the first day of Open Data Camp 7 in London was led by Anneka France from The Rivers Trust. She she had wanted to run the session because she had wanted to get hold of the National Soil Map because she wanted money for an EU-funded project to restore peatland for climate mitigation and flood prevention.

The National Soil Map is covered by a commercial licence, and the charity was quoted £25,000 to get the data it needs. Which it can’t afford. But then Anneka heard about the ‘pillars of power approach’ “which has been used to overthrow governments” and wondered if it could help. Continue reading ODCamp 7: Using a pillars of power approach to opening data

SPARQL 101: how to get started with the linked data search query language

How do you get started with SPARQL, the language for querying linked data? An Open Data Camp 7 session, led by Jen, aimed to help newbies get going.

Liveblogging: prone to error, inaccuracy, and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated in the coming days.

Learning about SPARQL and linked data

More and more open data platforms are either becoming linked data at their core, or they have offshoots that add it. The data underneath linked data is RDF – and SPARQL is the query language for RDF. Most SparQL endpoint look like a query box with gobbledegook with them – where you are expected to write your own gobbledegook. It’s somewhat intimidating,

In most cases, they also provide an API so you can programmatically query the information – but somebody needs to develop that. SPARQL endpoints give you direct access to all the data. The structure of RDF — the triples — creates a very standardised data format that you can query for whatever you like.

There’s a SPARQL playground where you can experiment with queries. There’s more than one of them, in fact.

You can use the query interface to hone down on the data you want, and then download it as a CSV, or use that as a query to use programatically. The playgrounds help you figure out how to construct queries by showing you the results on a sample dataset. Continue reading SPARQL 101: how to get started with the linked data search query language

ODCamp 7: Just the facts: fact checking with open data

Andy Dudfield, who works for “a small charity” called Full Fact, which checks out the claims made by politicians and others, said he had pitched this session because “fact checking is hard to do” and “we are always looking for ways to make it go faster.”

So, he said, “one of the things that we would like to do is to look at using open data for fact checking” and he would like his audience to tell him about any good open data sources for the job. And, also what the caveats were likely to be.

For example, he said, Full Fact might be asked to check a claim that crime had risen: were there good open data crime statistics, and how would the organisation know where they came from, and whether any change was ‘real’ or a statistical artefact? Continue reading ODCamp 7: Just the facts: fact checking with open data

Dealing with Open Data excuses

An Open Data Camp 7 session on countering excuses for not publishing open data, led by Jenny Broker. Liveblogging: prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be improved in the coming days.

Drawnlaism: a discussion on Open Data Excuses

Excuse: It’s a safety thing – it’s critical and it could be useful to terrorism

Safety is the first thing people will come after you with. For example, in utilities, it’s a very real concern, particularly around the location of assets. Is this a genuine concern, or an easy way of shutting down a conversation? Is this information that’s not already accessible via Google Maps, for example? Crashing critical infrastructure is a genuine risk. The most risky data is already heavily controlled — and is often not even shared within government. That comes with its own problems – issues get missed because staff don’t have access to the full picture.

So, if Google Maps has the data, if we make it more accessible, is there a potential for spotting problems earlier? Well, liability now raises its head. Pretty much all datasets are infested with personal data, so if you published the data, and something happens, you’re liable. Some people don’t want to take that risk. This is another standard way of hiding from open data. Some organisations have developed organised risk assessments for open data – it create a more structured way to talk about risk. Continue reading Dealing with Open Data excuses

Decolonialising Data

After lunch at Open Data Camp 7, consultant Edafe Onerhime explained why she had wanted to raise the issue of ‘decolonialising data’.

She is Nigerian as well as British, she explained, and her research had brought her into contact with the issue of “white by default.” As an example, she said, the census puts ‘white, British’ at the top of its identity options; which affects the data that is collected, because people have to scroll down to find other options.

At the same time, she said, a lot of technology relies on data collection and analysis that is carried out in India and countries and Africa. For example, a lot of tagging of pictures for what is billed as AI is done there. The taggers may not receive much money; yet their work is consumed by affluent, Western consumers.

So, the question: “How can we remove the effects of colonisation on data collection and use?” Campers at the session felt the first issue is to recognise that there is a problem, and the second is to get more voices at the table. Then, the assumptions underlying the collection and use of data need to be interrogated. Continue reading Decolonialising Data

Open Data Strategy Campfire

A session from Open Data Camp 7 on delivering started nationally, led by Anne McCrossan. Liveblogged notes. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated in the coming days.

Do we really have a national data started yet? Where we do have strategies – how well are they being implemented? Can we move things forwards by sharing experiences with each other?

Northern Ireland is on its second data strategy in six years. The first one was all data open by default – but they didn’t really have the delivery mechanisms or incentives to get civil servants to deliver. Hence the reason for a new one so quickly. It has a lot more reporting mechanisms in there, to exert pressure on local authorities, and report that upwards to general government.

Over the first three years, the success stories tended to be with startups and external companies. The frustrations were with the civil service.

Community Desires

What are our desired as a community, and how would they be expressed? Open data strategy in particular has tended to be less a strategy and more a commitment to getting it out. This is partially the result of the movement being kicked off by a coalition of interests. It can be challenging for some political ends.

Do we need outcomes? This is still an emergent space, so it’s hard to know what outcomes you might get. For example, going to the moon gave us Velcro, but it wasn’t part of the strategy… It’s very difficult to know what people will do with open data. So, maybe the strategy should just be delivery.

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ODCamp 7: The ROI of Open Data

How do we show the value of opening up data? That was the question asked by Dan Winchester, who runs a company called Get the Data, in the second round of sessions at Open Data Camp 7.

“I am a data publisher and also a data consumer,” he explained. “I create data sets and put them out in the world and people consume that data. But I have very little information about what is created. Is there value: economic, or social from it? That makes it hard for me to know whether I am putting resources into the right place.

“While, as a data consumer, I am seeing benefits from using data, but do the people who are publishing the data aware of those. Am I doing as much as I could do to help them make the case for allocating resources to the data I am benefiting from?”

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