A small but select band of Open Data Camp 5 participants gathered in the garden room for a final session devoted to the subject of catalogues. And meta-data. Or both.
Session leader Jen Williams explained: “I pitched a session on catalogues because there doesn’t seem to be much interest in them. The discussion [at #ODCamp] is all about datasets, and publishing datasets, and getting people to engage with them.
“It’s not about telling people what we have got. And I would say that publishing a catalogue goes a long way towards doing that.
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 unconferences, 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.
The question of who data belongs to, and whether individuals can have a say in what happens to their data, tends to come up very quickly in some areas. Health, for example.
But there is a concern that the whole issue of data collection and use could become much more fraught with the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation. This is an EU regulation, that is being incorporated into UK law at the moment, via the Data Protection Bill.
The GDPR will require organisations to think about the impact of projects on data privacy at an early stage and to appoint a data protection officer. It will introduce large fines for data breaches, tighten up rules on consent, and introduce some new rights; including a right to be forgotten.
The session heard this last right, introduced following a court case involving Google, could have a big impact on open data sets. Because if people remove themselves from datasets, they become less complete.
One of the first questions to come up on day two of Open Data Camp was “what is an API?” One of the last issues to be discussed was “what makes a good API?”
Participants were asked for examples of application programming interfaces that they actually liked. The official postcode release site got a thumbs up: “It was really clear how to use it and what I’d get, and I can trust that the data will come back in the same way each time.”
For obvious reasons, people attending Open Data Camp 4 in Cardiff tend to think that creating, publishing, and analysing data is a good thing. But there is no doubt that data can be gathered, accessed, released and used for bad purposes.
Controversially, Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the Institute for Government, was allowed a PowerPoint presentation at Open Data Camp 4. However, it was in a good cause.
His slides enabled him to give some concrete examples of the data in the Whitehall Monitoring Project, which he runs. The project monitors the shape and size of government, the morale of civil servants, and other factors.