I am going to let you in on a little secret that is going to change your life. I hope you’re sitting down. You need open data. And, what’s more, open data needs you.
Has your life changed yet? Ok, then read the rest of this blog and then we’ll check again.
Let’s start with why you need open data.
I’m sure you know this already, but in 2015, the UK was a key player in the creation and implementation of the International Open Data Charter and was one of the first signatory national governments. There are six core principles to the charter but perhaps the most important is number one - we should be “open by default”.
Open data plays an important role in our democratic processes. It is your opportunity to understand how government organisations, like Essex County Council, are operating. It’s a means to enable you, whoever you are, to have a greater understanding of the decisions and action being taken, and to hold public bodies to account.
Within Essex we have been doing a lot of work to increase the amount of data that we have available, providing information about Essex in a way that is timely and accessible.
For example, just last month the annual Essex Residents Survey was published as an interactive dashboard. This means you can get a feel for what the residents of Essex are thinking and feeling about the county. It means our partners such as district councils and charities can access insights quickly that highlight the things that matter most to their residents. Providing information such as the 2021 Census data, Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, and the Essex Area Profiles in an open, accessible, and transparent way enables us to share information publicly that helps the public sector collaborate with one another and plan key services such as social care and health and wellbeing around community needs.
Open data can save lives! More than 200,000 lives have been saved in European countries thanks to faster emergency response resulting from open maps data and open real-time traffic data.
The sharing of real-time public transport data in the EU has saved a whopping 27 million hours for employees in public transport.
The possibilities to use open data are endless.
But it isn’t just about the public sector. Companies in the private sector use open data to innovate. Understanding the local community that they operate within can help them to provide services that their customers actually want, such as e-scooters, restaurant delivery and 5G!
And it’s not just about them either. As a resident, if you want to understand more about the place that you live, you can access great information about your home county, in a way that we’ve never been able to provide in the past.
Ultimately, whoever you are, you need open data, because open data enables you to understand the world around you in a way that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
But I said at the beginning that open data needs you too, and it does.
We want and need to know the things that matter to you, whoever you are, tell us what you would want to see more data about. We want to make sure that our open data platform tells you things that are important to you. Because if we know, we can act on that.
That brings us on to some of our plans moving forward. We want to expand our offer, and we’re going to do so by setting up an open data steering group in Essex. The purpose of this group will be to shape the future of open data in the county, ensuring we have the right data available from the right people. We want to invite partner agencies to join us in the steering group, so if you’re someone who has data that you think might be beneficial to share, or if you’re someone who could do with some data being shared – let us know!
It’s Open Data Day this Saturday, 4 March, celebrate with us by acting now, register your interest to be a part of the open data conversation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We want 2023/24 to be a big year for open data, and if we’re going to make that a reality, we’re going to need your help.