Data Brew: Open Data For Everybody Workshop / Sandwell Council Report

Friday 27th July we facilitated our first workshop, Open Data for Everybody: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Open Data. This was the first in a proposed series looking at Open Data, and was hosted by Sandwell MBC, in association with iSandwell. Thankyou all involved for organising.

I’d also like to thank everyone who participated and got involved, we had a great session and I think we all learned a lot about the region, myself included. Within the workshop we covered what Open Data is, why it is important and what you can do with it. We also looked at great examples of where it is being used effectively in the UK and overseas, examples of where best to find it across the UK, and the type of people and organisations that use it, as well as the aim of Data Brew itself. We also had a few activities and insightful discussions…

What resources do you have at hand for finding data in the region, and are there any gaps or areas that could be improved?

We split the room into two groups to document their thought process and it was really interesting to see where they compared but moreso how they contrasted. Both sides drew on the good that the Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is doing for the region, as well as the likes of iSandwell, Sandwell Council itself and the Council run Sandwell Trends site (www.sandwelltrends.info), and also Police.UK which we featured in the workshop.

It was also great to see some obvious sources crop up, that didn’t seem obvious at first, like using internet search engines such as Google, utilising Zoopla for local information surrounding houses for sale or rent, as well as Wikipedia, online newspaper articles and local media, libraries, schools, universities, unions, charities and more.

Both sides of the room agreed that more needed to be done to ensure people get access to data, and understand how easy it is to obtain.

At Data Brew we feel we have a duty to ensure that not only is open data accessible to people but that they also understand it can be used to create change for social good. A big part of this is knowing what is readily available out there, which was also brought up by the group, and we aim to make sure that people have more awareness of the various places you can obtain data and what you can do with it.

We also gained feedback following the session and asked about improving awareness in the area…

With 90.9% of the room rating this ‘Very Important’ this just further solidified the need for greater awareness of Open Data in Sandwell, and we will work on this going forward.

With 90.9% of the room rating this ‘Very Important’ this just further solidified the need for greater awareness of Open Data in Sandwell, and we will work on this going forward.

Do you feel that community groups and third sector have the confidence to use open data in the region, and if not what can we do as a collective to change this?

It was interesting to see here that one group looked at the confidence of using open data, whilst the other looked at the factors affecting confidence, so this was really great to contrast.

One group remarked how confidence in using Open Data is limited, people are more comfortable using statistics as fact and not necessarily to create change, and more awareness is needed of places or people that have used data in the past to create change. There are many factors affecting confidence as can be seen above but both groups agreed that more training is required to help with confidence in the accuracy of data, understanding the importance of it and what you can do with it, and making sure skills are up to date.