Provisional programme for 2017

IMG_0066From last night’s planning meeting we now have a provisional programme for 2017 and it is quite an ambitious one. What is great from our perspective is that there is a continuation of a number of themes that we have been looking at over the last year and a resurfacing of perennial ones. Highlights include the ‘making and doing’ workshops that have been developed as part of the Echo Chambers and ‘Post-Fact’ Politics programme and the Visualising Data workshops. There are a number of sector and technically specific events but one to watch out for is alternative ways of looking at the world which will be a day of walks, talks and explorations. As always there is a large dose of how data and technology impact on society and much more.

This is a provisional programme and we are looking for as much input as possible (Dates and sessions are subject to change). Please click on the Google Doc and add comments. We are looking for people who can contribute, sponsors, venues and partners.

Link to Google Doc

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Making data useful and other stories – How GM authorities are using data to help their citizens

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 27th September 2016
Greenheys Business Centre
Manchester Science Park
Pencroft Way
Manchester M15 6JJ

Map here

Sign up on Eventbrite here

This month’s Open Data Manchester looks at how two local authorities are using data to deliver service.

Alison Mckenzie Folan and Alison Hughes from Wigan Council will show how they are using data and open data to help them engage the community, target resources and enhance services. Wigan Deal has been seen as an exemplar of engagement between the public sector, local businesses and community.

Jamie Whyte leads Trafford Innovation Lab which has been developing new and innovative ways to make open data understandable. The insight created has enabled community groups to use data to help them apply for funding, created resources for councillors and shown a spotlight onto the complex world of school admissions

Open Data Manchester events are spaces for learning, discussion and collaboration. The events are open and free

Open Data Manchester – September Edition

Open Environmental Data Special.

Tuesday 24th September 2013

Madlab 36-40 Edge Street Manchester M4 1HN

Sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/8260221545

There has been a lot of emphasis in the open data movement on access to data that shines a light on the workings of government or allows the creation of mobility applications. Data that gives us insight into the environment in which we live, work and play tends to be little used yet offers huge potential in enabling people to understand and act on local environmental issues.

The Freedom of Information Act giving people the right to data that public bodies hold is well known but there is little understanding of legislation that gives people the right to access environmental data. The Environmental Information Regulations give people the power to ask for data on a host of environmental issues, yet unlike their FOIA cousins are under-utilised. Is it that EIR is too complex and little understood or is it that the data that is held is incomplete or difficult to use?

In mitigation of this there is a growing army of people who are taking matters into their own hands be exploring, mapping and creating environmental data that is more relevant to their communities. Low cost ‘easy to use’ sensors can be deployed , networked, fitted to smart phones and the data aggregated to provide a more comprehensive picture of our environment.

This months Open Data Manchester is a chance to look at some of the initiatives that have been taking place recently. It will be an opportunity to discuss why we need access to environmental data and how people can come together to map their own communities.

Growing Data

**The following guest post is by Farida Vis from the Everyday Growing Cultures research project. The project looks at the potentially transformative effect of bringing together the food growing and open data communities.**

This post also originally appeared on the OKFN Blog http://blog.okfn.org/2013/07/18/the-transformative-potential-of-gardening-with-data/

EGC picture_OKFN blog post

Those supporting the government’s open data agenda highlight the business case for open data, an economic argument about its moneysaving potential, along with the suggestion that it will lead to better-informed citizens. All of these claims require close and critical examination. If money is saved, who benefits and makes money from these innovations? How exactly do citizens know about and become better informed through open data? Why should they care? Some within the wide and heterogeneous open data ‘movement’ subsequently point to the importance of ‘really useful’ data, suggesting citizens might care and become better informed if open data was seen as useful in their daily lives.

Our project, (http://everydaygrowingcultures.org/), addresses these issues by focusing on two distinct yet connected communities: allotment, growing communities (plot holders; allotment societies; those waiting for plots; allotment governing bodies) and the open data community (open data activists; developers; local government; data journalists). Allotment and open data communities may initially seem unconnected, but they share many concerns: around ideas of knowledge sharing, exchange, collaboration, ‘the commons’, and access to shared resources (digital and land).

We believe there is a potentially transformative value in connecting these two currently disparate communities. Bringing them together could build stronger, more active communities, benefit local economies and improve environmental sustainability and food security. We focus on the current allotment waiting list crisis and huge interest in growing your own, to investigate the value that could be brought into people’s lives through opening up local government data on allotments. Moreover, we are interested in facilitating citizen-led solutions to this crisis by identifying and mapping vacant land for the purpose of growing food.

Our research is based on the UK cities of Sheffield and Manchester, which both have thriving open data and food growing communities. Keeping in mind the different aspects of the open data agenda – the economic dimension, its claimed contribution to a better informed citizenry – along with the methods through which open data is practiced, we are using the allotment case and increased interest in food growing to ask:

* What does digital engagement and transformation look like within these communities?

* How can these communities further the national open data agenda so that it benefits citizens?

* How can a more widely adopted and enacted open data strategy benefit local economies?

* If unsuccessful in these aspects, what might open data’s unintended consequences look like?

* How can we think of forms of resistance, mobilisation of local histories and heritage identities?

* How can we rethink received ideas of participation and enacting citizenship in light of these?

Since mid-February 2013, in partnership with Open Data Manchester, The Kindling Trust and Grow Sheffield, we have run a number of events with growing communities in Manchester and Sheffield, to identify potential food growing spaces. We have talked to local councils about taking some of our ideas forward and how this might take place. We have requested allotment data through the Freedom of Information Act and looked at how council websites provide information to potential allotment plot holders. We are in the process of surveying people on waiting lists and have made a documentary film highlighting these important issues.

Join the Everyday Growing Cultures team in Sheffield on 23 July to discuss and explore these issues with key partners and stakeholders, including leading UK allotment expert Professor David Crouch. As part of the event, the award winning feature documentary, Grown in Detroit, will be screened. Before that our own project documentary film will be shown and the filmmakers (Erinma Ochu and Caroline Ward) will be there to answer your questions!

The event is free to attend, but registration is required. Please register here: (http://everydaygrowingculturespublicevent.eventbrite.co.uk/). Please check the website for further details.

We will also present work from the project at these upcoming events: (http://smarttowns.co.uk/) event in Halifax in September.

(http://www.digthecity.co.uk/) film screening at Dig the City festival in Manchester (3-11 August).

Open Data Manchester – By Jove it’s June.

6.30pm – 8.30pm Tuesday 25th June 2013
MadLab – 36 – 40 Edge Street Manchester M4 1HN

Manchester’s premiere open data meetup will be taking place once more this month.

Open Data Manchester has been meeting regularly since the beginning of 2010 and is a free and open forum for discussion and practice around open data.

It is a chance to catch up on all stuff ‘open data’ that is taking place both locally and beyond. There are a number of initiatives around and it would be good to catch hold of them.

If you have any projects or ideas you want to discuss or have an open data itch that you need to scratch, feel free to bring them along.

 

Open Data in Manchester: Challenges and Opportunities

This blog post was originally written for the Open Knowledge Foundation blog.

Open Data Cities was initiated in May 2009, premised on the simple question of how cities would evolve if all data were made open. Would the same inequalities and asymmetries persist for example? Moreover, what would need to happen within the city to bring about the adoption of more open and transparent practices?

Greater Manchester is a region in the North West of England with a population of 2.8 million people. It comprises of 10 boroughs containing two cities and many large towns. Open Data Cities approached the city as a functioning organism comprising of these 10 boroughs. For the project to have a genuine impact with its inhabitants, we proposed that the project would need to align with how people used the city rather than the ways in which the city was administered. The reality within the city is that although people access services across authorities and whilst there are a number of pan-Greater Manchester public bodies, local authorities still deliver services to tight geographical boundaries.

Addressing the whole Greater Manchester region in this way, created an environment that allowed the project to evolve in a particular way. As the region was adopting City Region status this would require a certain alignment in terms of data and information. The granting of City Region status also opened up the possibility of bringing about an elected mayor, enabling, theoretically, a coherent region-wide strategy to be implemented.

Working across the ten boroughs – all with their own democratically elected councils is not without its challenges. Each public body has its own administrative and data structure and specific set of difficulties. It was therefore necessary to adopt a pragmatic, non-threatening approach as part of our project. Conversations therefore centered around the idea of allowing citizens to look ‘under the hood’ of public service so to speak, of creating better understanding of what councils do. Most importantly we were interested in rebalancing the relationship between public service and citizen and the possibility for services to be delivered with citizens rather than simply to citizens.

Communicating The Benefits

We were often challenged as to how the release of data would benefit the person on the street and who would create the applications and interpretations to allow this to happen. At the start of the Open Data Cities project the Open Data Manchester community was formed to provide evidence that there was indeed a ‘demand’ for the release of open data within the region. We argued that by giving people the tools to understand and act within communities, open data would have broader benefits too. Moreover, there was a growing acceptance that enabling people to access the data and information relevant to their locality was important. This in part has been born out by the emergence of hyperlocal blogging as a means of disseminating news and information at a community level.

Open Data Cities also strongly emphasised the innovation and economic benefits such open data could bring to the region. Opening up the ‘undiscovered country’ of open data, could kick start an economy based on the creation of data services. We had seen examples where companies such as Elbatrop software in London had created best selling applications for San Francisco based on released tree data. If Greater Manchester released data this could present an opportunity for developers to create applications that could have relevance beyond the Greater Manchester region. Research had identified that open data could add £6 billion of added value to the UK economy, how much of that value could be injected into the regional economy?

High value, ‘quality of life’ datasets were identified. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive now TfGM, made the decision to release large and regularly updated datasets. This sparked a number of good applications but most of them were ‘proof of concept’ with little that could really be considered ready for market. This wasn’t the ‘release the data and people will build cool stuff’ future that we had been promoting, and even though the transport authority had now committed to making data open as a default position, they were very aware that not much was being built.

Acknowledging the Barriers

By talking to people who were involved in Open Data Manchester and the wider Greater Manchester digital community, it became apparent that although open data offered opportunities, there were a number of significant barriers that were inhibiting the development of services. These could be seen as return on investment, risk and liability.

The return on investment argument was quite apparent from early on. People have to make a living and generally want to see their efforts rewarded. By Open Data Cities embracing the 2.8 million people of Greater Manchester it was hoped that there would be enough people to sustain a market in Open Data application development. In order to kickstart this market it was proposed that a number of innovation challenges with sizeable incentives should take place.

It was obvious that there were no large digital businesses in the open data space and we had long held the view that their presence would be an indicator of the health of the open data innovation ecosystem. A suggested reason for the scarcity being that open data licensing was transferring all the risk on to the developer, whereas previously data would be generally released with some sort of service level agreement, none of these guarantees exist with open licensing. The idea of spending large amounts of development time on applications built on data that could then be turned off was deemed too risky.

Liability was also an issue. Who would be liable if someone had bought an application where the data was suddenly turned off or were inaccurate? There were also concerns as to the robustness of supplied data and the sometimes, archaic formats data were supplied in. The liability argument was also been put forward as a ‘supply side’ reason for non-disclosure both from a robustness of data and command and control perspective.

Collaboration

When FutureEverything and Trafford Council began working together on DataGM – The Greater Manchester Datastore, many of the local authorities were in a state of panic through having to negotiate the drastic shortfalls in budget. It was becoming apparent that innovation and citizen empowerment, although appealing were the least of concerns. Public bodies are still in a time of fiscal stress and it has been stated that few, if any, public bodies innovate out of a crisis.

All Greater Manchester local authorities and most pan-Greater Manchester public bodies are represented on the datastore steering group – The benefit of having a local authority leading the project, is their ability to get people around the table. Whilst some members of the group understood the logic of having a datastore and shared intelligence, there was a lot of resistance. Members stated despair at being involved with a project where they didn’t know if they would still be in post in three months time, with others not seeing the point of spending time and resource on something that didn’t have concrete output. There was also a very tangible silo mentality where the idea of shared intelligence across authorities was seen as attractive but not essential.

Evidence and Evolution

As the DataGM project gathered momentum more evidence started to emerge as to the inefficiencies of maintaining a siloed and closed data culture. The servicing of Freedom of information requests costs Greater Manchester public bodies over £4 million a year, over 600 public officials a day are unable to find or use data that they require in order to carry out their jobs – costing authorities over £8.5 million a year. The annoying tendency – for public bodies – of citizens using services outside their borough boundaries also creates difficulties. With no pan – Greater Manchester data initiative it is difficult for public bodies to create and deliver on coherent regional strategies. Open data offers a solution.

Now DataGM is becoming established the economic logic of using a centralised data catalogue, where the data that local authorities use themselves is openly available, is starting to make sense. Open data needs to be transformational. For public bodies enhanced engagement and the creation of innovative services are not enough. We are at a stage where we are saying if you spend A you will get savings of B and with open data you will also gain benefits of C, D, E…

DataGM is starting to develop data release schedules so that local authorities can release similar data in a coordinated way. With developers such as Swrrl – one of the recent winners of the EU Open Data Challenge, some of that data is being expressed as Linked Data. The Open Data Manchester community continues to grow. Although there is still a long way to go with open data in Manchester it feels like more people within public service are starting to see the benefits, and the possibility of Greater Manchester becoming an Open Data City gets closer.