By Steven Bartholomew (@StevenBarthol2), Director of Public Affairs, Telefonica Digital
Two significant events in the UK this month served to highlight how the public sector is truly seeing the benefits of openness.
The Open Data Institute announced ambitious expansion plans at its first annual summit. Conceived by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (read his guest blog here) and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the ODI was launched to foster innovation via open data sharing and analysis.
It was revealed at the summit (see image to the right) that the organisation will launch 13 international centres – or “nodes” – in countries ranging from Dubai to Argentina via Russia and Sweden. Each node is tasked with furthering the principles of open data across various disciplines, including business, education and publishing.
The news comes after a successful first year for the ODI that saw numerous organisations join the start-up programme run by the body. One of the most successful partnerships to come out of the programme revolved around the analysis of large sets of NHS prescribing data.
The project identified around £200 million in potential savings across the NHS through smarter prescriptions alone. Another project with the Department for Climate Change looks at new ways of saving energy in homes, ultimately identifying emissions savings of up to 80% in some cases.
A few days later the Open Government Partnership summit (see video below) took place in London. Attended by an impressive 61 countries, it was designed to promote transparency and identify new technologies to make central governments more open and accountable.
Britain’s PM David Cameron used the event to announce plans to crack down on hidden company ownership via complicated networks of shell companies. “Open government isn’t some sort of optional add on, some sort of ‘nice to have’…it’s absolutely fundamental to a nation’s potential success in the 21st century,” he asserted. The Prime Minister also recognised the vital role that an open government plays in the wider economic growth, innovation and success of a country.
Hopefully these new projects will kick-start a new drive to use the ethos of openness to drive a multitude of benefits for society. In fact, we’ve seen the green shoots of what could come in the SmartSantander project, which is driving new frontiers in open data.
The smart project in the Spanish city uses 12,000 sensors to record everything from traffic levels to air quality. Telefónica has worked with the civic authorities to make the enormous amounts of data generated from the project open to third parties such as private sector businesses and entrepreneurs. The project is also facilitating new levels of civic transparency as residents can track the progress of various government schemes in real time.
The result of all of this? A future defined by transparency and openness, rather than walled gardens and secrecy, something that can only benefit society.