How to make the flowers bloom: why open data is necessary but not sufficient to make a difference

[cross-posted from London Datastore http://data.london.gov.uk/blog blog post of 31 March 2011]

Earlier this month, colleagues from local and central government, bloggers, community activists and developers got together at an event organised by @Madwdata – making a difference with data http://www.madwdata.org.uk/ to discuss how open public data could be used to make a difference.

The Making a Difference with Data project is trying to identify what data is needed, and what else needs to happen, to make local public data usable and useful. Along with Will Perrin from Talkaboutlocal, http://talkaboutlocal.org.uk/ I’m on the steering group for the project, representing the Local Public Data Panel [See www.data.gov.uk <file://www.data.gov.uk> for more information about the Panel]

The conversation carried on after the event, and continued into the Local Public Data Panel’s meeting last week.

One of the ideas to come out of these discussions is that we need a framework to understand and analyse the transparency and open data ecosystem. In particular, we need to consider not just what data should be published and in what format, but also how people can be supported and enabled to make effective use of the data.

We came up with the idea of an open data value chain. The value chain shows the activities that are necessary for open data and transparency to deliver better, more responsive and transparent government, economic benefits and innovation. [flickr pic of the value chain is here : http://www.flickr.com/photos/janethughes/5561098272/

The idea is that a framework like this could help us see the overall picture, so that we can work out where the gaps are in the system and then seek sponsorship to support projects to fill the gaps.

A value chain suggests an orderly, controlled system, whereas transparency and open data are a complex, changeable ecosystem. This presentation, http://www.slideshare.net/janet-hughes/how-to-make-the-flowers-bloom How to Make the Flowers Bloom, tries to show the complexity that lies behind the value chain framework.

The next step will be to identify gaps in the ecosystem and seek out opportunities for projects that could help to fill those gaps.

Comments and feedback on these ideas are very welcome – get in touch via e-mail [email protected] or Twitter @janethughes

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