Question: How do we demonstrate the value of open data? 

Response: Create some noise! 

The question was posed for a group discussion at the Scottish Open Data Unconference (SODU) conference held online in October 2021. 

We started by discussing the word ‘value’.  What do you think of when you hear the word ‘value’? 

Perspectives given on ‘what is the value of open data’ included: 

  • Monetary  
  • Social values
  • Environmental values
  • Time saved 
  • Meets regularly requirements 
  • Increase trust in stakeholders/user groups 
  • Improves visibility/communication of good work 
  • Changed behaviour 

This wide interpretation was good news as it allowed many avenues to be explored to demonstrate the value. 

How do we demonstrate the value of open data?

All roads in the discussion seemed to lead back to persuading people to tell their story of how they have applied open data and why the data has been beneficial to them. 

Examples included:

University students

University students of data related subjects regularly use open data in their coursework. But… 

  • how many publish their work outside of the University?  
  • how many go back to the data publisher and let them know how it has helped them? 

I suggest that most of the time the coursework is handed in, read by a few tutors, and then filed away and never looked at again.  

Perhaps the insights found could be made more public? 

Charities and community groups

Charities and community groups regularly use and publish open data. There have been significant projects undertaken in this area which were mentioned at other SODU sessions (so not repeated here).

How can they tell us more about their projects to demonstrate the value?

How as a reader do you want to hear more on their projects?  

Commercial companies

There are commercial companies using open data in their projects.  These companies are perhaps more happy and keen to share their stories on their projects. However in this case the narrative tends to be more on the end product rather than the fact it’s powered by open data.  

Data the consumable or show stopping main event

The discussion then turned to, does it matter if it’s only the end product that’s mentioned with the fact that open data is being used to power it being a by-product mention or excluded.

There were differing opinions, which is good as that was the whole point of the session! In essence so long as the user was letting the publisher know the data was being used then that was probably sufficient. The user of the product may not be concerned how the product was made, they just want to use product. 

However there was also an acceptance that some publishers make it impossible for people to feedback to them the their data was being used. So perhaps better conversations on both the publisher and user sides required.

Tell us about it

We had some wacky ideas of how to demonstrate the value, such as a TV programme on data (as they exist for tech!), to encouraging journalists to go along to more open data events or ask more data related questions in interviews, to education in schools such that making data open (within reason – some things should remain private) a natural way to think about data rather than ‘closed’ by default.   

Let’s have more storytelling to demonstrate the value open data has brought to companies, organisations, and individuals.  

Let’s make some noise! 

Please note that this is my interpretation of the session. I am sure others participants will have picked up or interpreted matters in a different way as we had a lively discussion session with many points raised. 

The Scottish Open Data Unconference (SODU) 2021 was held online on 2-3 October 2021. The above blog relates to only one session. For more information on the event and other sessions please visit the SODU website.

Headline photo “Say It Louder” by Alena Jarrett on Unsplash

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