Making data freely available for everyone to use presents many opportunities. It can support organisations working for change by providing high-quality, accessible information. It can support advice and advocacy organisations delivering services, and, perhaps most importantly, through the delivery of digital applications it can support individuals directly. For example open data has been used to create map and public transport apps.
At an organisational level open data is already changing the way we work. Organisations that used to rely on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to access routine information can now expect that information to be readily accessible when they need it. If it’s not yet released, they should know how to press dataholders for it.
At our workshop in March people told us open data ‘reduced the friction’ in relationships with dataholders, creating new information ‘ecologies’ that are easier for people to access. As it’s less time-consuming than making an FOI request, it means people can spend less time chasing organisations for data and more time doing something productive with it.
Where data isn’t released it might be because it isn’t collected or retained in the first place. These gaps in data can often tell just as powerful stories as the data itself, exposing shortcomings in data collection and management by dataholders. For example, a lack of data on specific expenditure on particular client groups might imply a low priority, a lack of strategic planning, or even that they’re trying to hide something.
At our event From broadcast to conversation we asked people what they thought open data would mean for their organisations, and captured some of their responses in the video below.