[Note: There are words in this post that I know are silly, but I have to use them. I am highlighting these words in italics to show that I know they are silly, but I’m using them anyway.]
I am currently helping to organise an event called ‘Open Data Camp’, which is to be held in Winchester (it’s near Southampton), on the 21st and 22nd February 2015. We think that it’s definitely the first of its kind in the UK, and possibly the first in the world (or even the universe, depending on which side of the Drake Equation fence you sit on). The 21st of February also happens to be International Open Data day.
Open Data Camp is a two-day event, consisting of an unconference and maker-space. The focus of the event is entirely open data – the notion of making data available so that it can be reused by anyone, without any restrictions. Though the event is an unconference (which means the content of the day is decided by attendees at the beginning of the day), it is likely that there will be sessions looking at the National Information Infrastructure, technical challenges, and opportunities presented by open data, amongst lots of other things.
Who is doing this?
The campmakers are a ragtag group of open data people:
Mark Braggins (Hampshire Hub Partnership)
James Cattell (Cabinet Office)
Neil Ford (Events)
Hendrik Grothuis (Cambridgeshire County Council and Open Data User Group)
Martin Howitt (Devon County Council)
Lucy Knight (Devon County Council and LocalGov Digital)
Pauline Roche (Birmingham)
Giuseppe Sollazzo (Open Data User Group)
Sasha Taylor (British Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials)
Sian Thomas (Food Standards Agency)
Jamie Whyte (Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab and LocalGov Digital)
Open Data Camp also has a number of excellent sponsors, without whom it would not be happening:
Hampshire County Council
Food Standards Agency
Office for National Statistics
Why are we doing this?
We are a group of people who are passionate about open data. We really feel that by opening data up, good things happen. There are many events held where open data is a supporting cast member – but at Open Data Camp – it’s the star of the show. To bring together 200 people for a weekend who are into open data is a brilliant opportunity to push open data forward.
Why are Trafford doing this?
Trafford has a history of doing open data well. We worked on setting up DataGM, we were the first Local Authority to be awarded a Pilot Level Open Data Institute Certificate, and we have recently been asked to work with the Cabinet Office as Local Experts in Open Data – working with a handful of other Councils who also do it well.
We use open data, as well as releasing it. We have recently used open data to identify priority sites for positioning defibrillators, apply for funding to support projects to reduce isolation in the elderly, and combined open and closed datasets to analyse cervical cancer screening rates, amongst many others.
Because of this, we have a vested interest in the wider open data picture. The more open data is released, the more we can use it to provide intelligence – through analysis and benchmarking. The better our intelligence is – the more informed our decision-making is.
But apart from the benefits that more data brings, there’s another good thing that’s happening because of the camp. The open data community is exceptionally talented, but is quite thinly distributed across the globe. Open Data Camp is being used as a touch point for some of these groups and organisations – the camp itself is now looking likely to connect with the Open Knowledge Foundation hack in London, Bath:Hacked, Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme Lean Startup weekend, Ebola Open Data Jam, and ODI nodes. The mechanics of these link-ups are yet to be worked out, but the fact that these connections are forming is very good for the open data movement.
How can you get involved?
All the tickets for Open Data Camp have now been sold (or rather allocated – it’s a free event). I will blog about the event once it has happened, with outcomes, outputs, challenges, etc. We (the campmakers will be tweeting in the run up to the event, and during the event itself, using the hashtag #ODcamp. All campers will also be asked to tweet during the event. We are also looking into ways that we can livestream sessions – more details of that will be available on the website.
Finally – if the camp is a success, we’ll probably look to make it an annual feature. If so I’ll do my best to drag the next one up North. Don’t be afraid to get tickets and come along!