Open data what could possibly go wrong?


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2010 was a big year for the Open Data community, some Ordnance Survey data was made freely available, launched with a raft of data from across government, government published an open data license and then a new government took over who seem to be equally committed to Open Data. So far we have seen Local Government brought into the Open Data initiative (albeit with a bit of a struggle) and most recently aggregated crime data has been published on
- So is everything rosy in the Open Data garden or are there dark clouds looming on the horizon?
- In a geo-context it seems that if we can pin a pair of coordinates to something someone will put it on a map, perhaps we need to pause before we map?
- Is Open Data the same as openness and transparency in a government context?
- What kind of accountability will access to Open Data deliver?

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  • Original title was perhaps a little too provocative so I thought I would change it to …..
  • Not talking OS OpenData
  • I am a committed advocate of OpenDataWe now have a flood of OpenData and will inevitably have more and better data in the not too distant future. But is everything rosy in the OpenData garden or are there storm clouds looming? Have we just given a loaded AK47 to a moody teenager? What might go wrong?I am thinking here about the government data that is being opened up rather than the Ordnance Survey boundaries, postcodes and maps which have also been released and are fundamental to many visualisations of Open DataLet’s have a look at the 3 drivers within the public policy agenda for open data
  • TransparencyIt is your dataYour right to dataSee what government is doing
  • AccountabilityAccess to public data will empower citizensPublic services will become more responsive to an informed and demanding public
  • InnovationAccess to public data will open up a raft of creativity within the developer and business communitiesGenerate new applicationsIdentify opportunities for public service improvement and innovationContribute to the growth of an information economy and generate new tax revenuesOverall OpenData must be cost neutral or positive
  • What on earth could go wrong?It's a long list!Does raw data aid understanding or does it need interpretation?Most interpretation is an opinion under the cover of analysisWhat about deliberate or negligent misinterpretation or distortionExample - the top 10 streets of crime headlinesWisdom of the crowd may solve this problem over timeBut stupidity of the crowd, particularly the simple black & white tones of the press may feed on misunderstanding in the early daysLet’s look at a few examples of what could go wrong or right
  • Let’s have a look at my personal hobby horse. Crime statisticsMust be a good thing to release all this data surely?The theory goes something like “If we all have a better understanding of crime within our neighbourhoods we will be able to influence police policies and actions to better serve our needs”
  • I am going to skip the overmentionedASBOrometer, anyone who knows me will know what low regard I have for this crude and out of date example of the power of opendata within the crime arena.Let’s start with the current poster child of open data – Paleos time to wake up, don’t be fooled by the Google map and the clustering algorithmsClickThis is chez Feldman in Muswell Hill, a nice middle class suburb in London full of aging hippies and liberals. Apart from the odd noisy teenagers wandering down the road a little too merry we don’t think we live in a high crime area. So what does this tell me? Are these numbers meant to shock or reassure, how do I evaluate them? Where is the context, the trends, the basis for comparison?ClickNow this is my old favourite from the Met and look ClickA basis for some comparison – note that this is also population weighted rather than raw dataClick and across the whole of Haringey I can get a picture
  • When data gets repurposed and republished who knows whether it is true to the original?Imagine data feed reaggregated and possibly as a time data was qualified with an explanation of the aggregation method. What if that is not included in repurposed data?Another question – even if everything is done perfectly how does it drive better policing? Isn’t opendata an extra tool for sharp elbowed articulate white middle classes (aka armchair auditors)
  • This is a great example of a useful aggregation of council expenditure data from over 150 councils now.Shout out if you are from LG and supporting this.But the problem is cheese …..
  • actually cheese and furniture
  • Focus on expenditure can distract from policy and meaningful discussion of options
  • There is much more than expenditure datathink about the potential to have smart applications for travel that make our lives easier and possibly encourage more people to use public transportNot sure whether at the moment the full Transport Direct data is available? Loads of opportunities in transport.Also loads of opportunities to map and analyse performance data from within the health and education sectors
  • Accountable to whom? Consider crime data for exampleHe who shouts loudest?The articulate middle classes?What if different groups interpret data differently and want to drive policy in different directions?Does this really drive better policing or skew priorities?
  • Let’s switch to Innovation and the motivation for people to take opendata and do smart things with itWill there be much innovation unless there is profit to drive it?Is the expectation of loads of innovative applications actually another attempt at the Big Society, getting the public to do government's task?Almost a year after and the freeing up of OS data have we seen the flourishing digital economy predicted?Not yet, but does that really matter?Hopefully something will come up that will prevent politicians from pointing at Asborometer as an example of innovation. It was a hack, it was not intended to be overly serious and it really isn't very good.
  • So what can we do?Prepare for some mishapsBe careful in what we claim for the benefits of OpenDataTry to build community of good or best practice in data manipulation and analysisHighlight the successes in prep for the backlash that could come when govt doesn't like outcomes of transparency and accountability or wants to sell off public data through the PDC
  • For me the key lesson of early opendata is the need to understand context. That means having a degree of domain expertise and certainly some skills in data analysis and interpretation (geostats 101 for example)
  • In conclusion open data without context and understanding could be a problem
  • Am I bovvered? No – you have to break some eggs to make an omeletteInvite a few comments from audience
  • Open data what could possibly go wrong?

    1. 1. X<br />OpenData© – it’s like giving a kid an AK47!<br />
    2. 2. Open Data- what could possibly go wrong?<br />Steven Feldman<br /><br />
    3. 3. Data<br /><br />
    4. 4. Transparency<br /><br />
    5. 5. Accountability<br /><br />
    6. 6. Innovation<br /><br />
    7. 7. What could possibly go wrong?<br /><br />
    8. 8. Crime<br /><br />
    9. 9. Crime in my nice middle class area<br />
    10. 10. Britain’s most crime ridden street<br />
    11. 11. Local Government<br />
    12. 12. Cheese<br /><br />
    13. 13. Furniture<br /><br />
    14. 14. Buses<br /><br />
    15. 15. Choices and Priorities<br />
    16. 16. Looking for innovators<br /><br />
    17. 17. Solutions<br /><br />
    18. 18. Context<br /><br />
    19. 19. This could get dangerous<br /><br />
    20. 20. What’s bovvering you?<br />
    21. 21. Thank you<br />Steven Feldman<br /><br />Twitter @stevenfeldman<br /><br />