Open data includes a wealth of public information that is now available under the Government Open Licence and which is free to use, adapt and share – although often on a not-for-profit basis. This represents an information revolution in the UK and enables communities and community-groups to understand their environment in ways previously limited to specialist departments in organisations that could afford to pay licence fees for what in many cases was information already paid for by the public purse. The question now is not so much “how can we get the data we need” but “how can we effectively use the data we have”.
Open Data is not enough. Finding and having data doesn’t mean that you can necessarily make sense of it or turn it into useful information. You may need to add data management skills, specialist software and and thematic know-how to turn any given data set (or collection of data sets) into useful knowledge on which you can make decisions. Democracy can’t function properly if the electorate don’t have access to credible information on which they can form and base their opinions. Opening up government data which the electorate has already paid for is a great way of starting to level the information playing field.
There are currently 20,000 open datasets available on data.gov.uk !
Interested? Why not have a read of the Open Data Handbook – in the language of your choice.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how Terra Sulis can help to cost effectively add value and solve your community interest information problem.
Bath & North East Somerset Council recognise the value of Open Data, saying “The council is committed to increasing the use of open data in the local area in a way which promotes social value and economic growth.” The BANES Open Data Policy can be read here.
BathHacked.org is another local organisation based on similar principles.