From open data to open analysis

We often talk of how open data can be used to help people make sense of the services they use or how an organisation performs, in other words getting smart about data. There are tools that can help those with the expertise do that and others which are more useful for people like you and me.

Deloitte argue there is now a “genuine opportunity for government to solve the riddle of better, cheaper services through smarter use of data” and has created a diagram below to show the different uses of data by how its potential for analysis:

Smarter Data

Deloitte Data Analytics

Changing our behaviour towards open data

It is clear looking at this table that public services opening data have so far very much focused on “corporate functions” and “scrutiny and reuse” in terms of the benefits of public data. Performance data dominates (whether it’s how well services perform or how much they spend) which is perhaps why the most prolific applications of the data have been focused on holding organisations to account and developing services to compare performance.

Although there has been much talk of the benefits of open data being in policy development and operations, there has been much less evidence of this in practice. What’s particularly interesting from Deloitte’s analysis isn’t just the use of information to inform what efficiencies could be made, but how the data could be used to inform an understanding of customer behaviour.

You might ask why citizens would ever be interested in understanding their behaviour, but if we reflect back on the findings from the RSA’s Steer Report, it encourages public services to give people the tools “to understand how their brains, behaviours and environments interact helps them make better decisions and tackle habits like smoking, binge-drinking and overeating”.

Do we need to move towards open research?

Of course, there is a tension between our ability to process data to help us make decisions and our instinct to trust our gut feelings. There is also a question mark over how effective just providing information to people to help them change their behaviours.

Whichever techniques we use to influence people’s behaviours, this will guide us into what methodologies we use to collect and then disseminate data and more importantly, to be open about what methodologies we do use.

Dennis Still advises that we should ask questions of the data rather than just slap up a few spreadsheets:

“What do they mean? Where are they from? What do they mean in relationship to one another? What trends do you see? What trends don’t you see?” So does the need to analyse specific data change the way we approach opening it?

Are we moving towards open research?

For our research data, check out here and click on demographics on the drop down.

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