OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

First Sightings of the Data Strategy Board

Via a BIS press release earlier this week – Better access to public sector information moves a step closer – it seems that the Data Strategy Board is on its way, along with a Public Data Group and an Open Data User Group (these are separate from the yet to be constituted Open Standards Board (if you’re quick, the deadline for membership of the board is tomorrow: Open Standards Board – Volunteer Members and Board Advisers, – Ref:1238758) and its feeder Open Data Standards, and Open Technical Standards panels).

So what does the press release promise?

A new independently chaired Data Strategy Board (DSB) will advise Ministers on what data should be released [will this draw on data requests made to data.gov.uk, I wonder? - TH] and has the potential to unlock growth opportunities for businesses across the UK. At least one in three members of the DSB will be from outside government, including representatives of data re-users.

The DSB will work with the Public Data Group (PDG) – which consists of Trading Funds the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House – to provide a more consistent approach to improving access to public sector information. These organisations have already made some data available, which has provided opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs to create imaginative ways to develop or start up their own businesses based on high quality data.

Looking at the Terms of reference for the Data Strategy Board & the Public Data Group, we can broadly see how they’re organised:

Three departmental agendas then…?! A good sign, or, erm..?! (I haven’t read the Terms of reference properly yet – that’s maybe for another post…)

How these fit in with the Public Sector Transparency Board and the Local Public Data Panel, I’m not quite sure, though it might be quite interesting to try and map out the strong and weak ties between them once their memberships are announced? It’d also be interesting to know whether there’d be any mechanism for linking in with open data standards recommendations and development (via the Standards Hub process to ensure that as an when data gets released, there is at least an eye towards releasing it in a usable form!

The Government is making £7m available from April 2013 for the DSB to purchase additional data for free release from the Trading Funds and potentially other public sector organisations, funded by efficiency savings. An Open Data User Group, which will be made up of representatives from the Open Data community, will be directly involved in decisions on the release of Open Data, advising the DSB on what data to purchase from the Trading Funds and other public organisations and release free of charge.

So the DSB is a pseudo-cartel of sort-of government data providers (the Trading Funds) who are being given £7 million or so to open up data that the public purse (I think?) paid them to collect. The cash is there to offset the charges they would otherwise have made selling the data. (Erm… so, in order for those agencies to give their data away for free, we have to pay them to do it? Right… got it…) Presumably, the DSB members won’t be on the ODG who will be advising the DSB on what data to purchase from the Trading Funds and other public organisations and release free of charge (my emphasis). Note the explicit recognition here that free actually costs. In this case, public bodies are having data central gov paid them to collect bought off them by central gov so (central gov, or the bodies themselves) can then release it “for free”? Good. That’s clear then…

Francis Maude also clarifies this point: “The new structure for Open Data will ensure a more inclusive discussion, including private sector data users, on future data releases, how they should be paid for and which should be available free of charge.”

In addition: The DSB will provide evidence on how data from the Trading Funds – including what is released free of charge – will generate economic growth and social benefit. It will act as an intelligent customer advising Government on commissioning and purchasing key data and services from the PDG, and ensuring the best deal for the taxpayer. So maybe this means the Public Sector Transparency Board will now focus more on “public good” and transparency” arguments, leaving the DSB to demonstrate the financial returns of open data?

The Open Data User Group (ODUG) [will] support the work of the new Data Strategy Board (DSB). [The position of Chair of the group is currently being advertised, if you fancy it...: Chair of Open Data User Group, - Ref:1240914 -TH]. The ODUG will advise the DSB on public sector data that should be prioritised for release as open data, to the benefit of the UK.

As part of the process, an open suggestion site has been set up using the Delib Dialogue app to ask “the community” How should the Open Data User Group engage with users and re-users of Open Data?: [i]n advance of appointing a Chair and Members of the group, the Cabinet Office wants to bring together suggestions for how the ODUG should go about this engagement with wider users and re-users. We are looking for ideas about things like how the ODUG should gather evidence for the release of open data, how it should develop it’s advice to the DSB, how it should run its meetings and how it should keep the wider community up to date on developments (as well as other ideas you have).

A Twitter account has also been pre-emptively set up to manage some of the social media engagement activites of the group: @oduguk

The account currently has just over a couple of hundred followers, so I grabbed the list of all the folk they follow, then graphed folk followed by 30 or more current followers of @oduguk.

Here’s the graph, laid out in Gephi using a fore directed layout, with nodes colured according to modularity group and sized by eigenvector centrality:

Here’s the same graph with nodes size by betweenness centrality:

By the by, responses to the Data Policy for a Public Data Corporation consultation have also been published, including with the Government response, which I haven’t had chance to read yet… If I get a chance, I’ll try to post some thoughts/observations on that alongside a commentary on the terms of reference doc linked to above somewhere…

Written by Tony Hirst

March 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Posted in opengov

Tagged with , ,

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  1. [...] the (draft) terms of reference). I’m not sure how this review fits into the reports to the tangle of reporting lines associated with the Data Strategy Board and the Public Data Group (the latter seems to have been [...]


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