Open data for Wales

Yesterday the National Assembly held a debate in the Senedd on the Welsh Government’s Open Data Plan. ODI-Cardiff got a mention (which is nice) quoting the blogpost on open data in procurement (which, cough, I wrote). The issue of considering data infrastructure as part of the new rail franchise was also raised (something we think is very important too).

It’s great that this issue got a plenary debate and that there seems to be a broad consensus in the Assembly that there are important issues here. I also got a sense from the debate that there a willingness to do more in this space.

Which is all good.

One further aspect I picked up from the debate is that we don’t, yet, have a distinctive Welsh take on Open Data. We don’t have, within the Assembly at least, a shared understanding of how open data can help the nation of Wales develop and improve the lives of its citizens. We lack an argument that shows how open data underpins the distinctively Welsh approach to public policy, economic development and social progress.

So we should probably try to develop one.

Here’s my first stab. I’d love to know what people think. It’s inspired by a lunchtime conversation yesterday during our ODI-Cardiff co-working day as well as the later Senedd debate.

Open data is a fundamental requirement for collaboration and co-production. If different parts of the public sector are to work effectively together they need to be working on the same evidence base. If service users are to be equal partners in the design and delivery of services they need to be working from the same information as the service providers. If we are to maximise the opportunities of communities, charities, businesses and government working together on the shared issues facing the nation we must, at the very least, be able to use the same information.

Not all data can be made open but huge amounts can and we should move the conversation away from the cost-benefit calculation of publication of specific datasets. Instead we need to agree that opening data is a fundamental necessity for collaboration. It is the infrastructure of Wales.

We also need to be aware that there is a range of what we might, for want of anything better, call “data maturity” in different organisations. Some organisations (or more likely some parts of some organisations) are highly sophisticated in their use of evidence for decision making. Others don’t use evidence at all. Alongside a move to treat data as fundamental collaboration infrastructure we need interventions to improve the capacity and capability of organisations across Wales.

These two things go hand in hand and are urgent, necessary requirements. Open data is a fundamental part of Wales’ collaboration infrastructure. Evidence-based decision making is a fundamental skill for everyone involved in service design or delivery in Wales.

What do you think?

This is just me. I’m sure ODI-Cardiff will have something a bit more official to contribute to this over the next few weeks.