March 13, 2014
Unlocking the power of data

Drew Hemment and Julian Tait from research and development hub FutureEverything write about the challenges around opening up data to create new services.

The Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme will create a single place for businesses and developers to access linked data from Greater Manchester.

The goal is to unlock the power of data and open data, and to make it available in a way that can enable people to create new services and generate value.

The project will unleash the power of data for the benefit of citizens, businesses and public bodies alike. Data will be made available as linked data, as promoted by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners Lee.

Linked data allows differing datasets, describing the same thing to be linked together, creating an environment where multiple services can be joined.

Multiple systems and formats

Data is usually made available using multiple systems, formats and standards, which can severely hamper its use. Unless data is linked to common descriptions or concepts, it can be impossible to work out if the datasets being used are describing the same thing as another dataset.

Previously data was made available in an ad hoc way, in multiple formats and various standards. This is okay for analysis, but not for developing services.

We are working with local authorities to help them identify and release data in a way that streamlines the process for developers.

A linked data system will be created for the storage and retrieval of data, capturing the relationships between data to create a more efficient and powerful way of accessing it.

This will enable businesses and the coding community to better develop new services and enhance existing ones, creating efficiencies and opportunities to scale and innovate. It will also create an environment for creative reuse of data within the local authorities.

Code fellows

A key part of the project is the placement of code fellows, data experts embedded in local authorities to help build capacity, facilitate the coordinated release of data across local governments, and enable the authorities to make sustainable better use of their data in the future.

The project builds on FutureEverything’s work in open data since 2009, where we have focused on growing demand and capacity in the coding, development and business community.

We have also focused on working with local authorities to navigate change. We listen to partners to assess and understand their needs, and then utilise insight and new ways of working, which is informed by our international community to advocate best practice.

We are delighted to be working with the Connected Digital Economy and Future Cities Catapults, they will play a vital role in helping to build sustainable economic development around open data, and by collaborating with them we are able to scale up what we do.

Any disruption in the system or changes in ways of working can present new opportunities. We are excited to see what new services and products will be built in this space.

You can follow Drew and Julian on Twitter @toodrew and @julianlstar

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