I was fortunate to get to meet Miranda Marcus and others from the Open Data Institute (ODI) earlier in 2019 at a workshop in Cardiff. The ODI had bought together a range of public service bodies via workshops to help feed into the development of the Data and Public Services Toolkit. This toolkit offers a set of free, collaborative, non-technical tools which aim to help people designing public services identify what data is available, what it can be used for, and how to do that well.
Then in October 2019, the ODI kindly invited Bristol City Council’s (BCC) City Innovation Team to talk about the role of open data as part of the city’s recently published Smart City Strategy. This have us the opportunity to speak about the evolution of the Open Data Bristol platform, the data sets we provide, our stakeholder engagement programme as well how the air quality dashboard is being used to support a dialogue with the city. It was at this point that I started having discussions with the ODI’s Renate Samson and Ben Snaith around what a “smart city” is in reality and data’s role.
Then in December 2019 we come full circle as the ODI worked with BCC to develop and deliver an open cities workshop. The workshop brought together a range of Bristol representatives from the police, the Bristol Waste Company, Bristol is Open, data advocates, as well as BCC’s Operations Centre, City Innovation Team, Culture Team, Sustainability Team and Information Governance Team.
The workshop meant people who may not normally cross paths, were able to start exploring their interconnections around data. I found the ODI’s Data Spectrum a highly effective introduction tool to enable an understanding of data and where it is appropriate to share.
Through the Data Ecosystem Mapping, participants looked at the specific team/service and the data they hold or curate. The existing and desired linkages to share data with teams and organisations could then be explored. It offered a “lightbulb” moment when the Operations Centre was able to note new data that could be shared. I found it interesting hearing why data is not shared and the barriers that need to be looked at.
We then had a fascinating training session around data ethics provided by Violeta Mezeklieva. This explored the dynamics around an individual’s morals and a group’s ethics. The impact of unconscious bias within data sets and algorithms showed the challenging data publishers need to be mindful of. To help with complexities, participants applied the data ethics canvas to existing or soon to be started projects. This brought up a wealth of considerations to ensure good practice.
Finally, we finished the day looking at the business case canvas. This is a really helpful tool to bring stakeholders together to get buy in for a project.
We hope that Bristol’s input will help the ODI support other cities explore their and own data for civic good.