Arriving at any event and the first thing you get handed is a He-Man sticker is always the sign that it's going to be a good day and the Swirrl 'Unlocking the Power of Government Data' conference did not disappoint. It really was a stellar cast of speakers from the data community.
I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in one of the discussion panels on Data Infrastructure alongside Ed Parsons (@edParsons), Ric Roberts (@ricRoberts) and Amanda Smith (@ayymanduh) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDkhLZo53cw&t=233s&index=8&list=PLYirSFACEje5_vBLqFzxjgNwEti_vLfxI
This is definitely not a new topic my favourite post from Peter Wells (@PeterKWells) in 2015 who describes data infrastructure as being to the digital revolution what the transport infrastructure was to the industrial revolution. Two years on and we are fully immersed in the digital revolution so it was good to have a moment to reflect on what data infrastructure means in practice and what infrastructure we need most.
As a data engineer at heart for me the panacea of data infrastructure is having access to reliable, relevant, dependable data that can be used to link all other data together. When we have that we can make it the lifeblood of government decisions, policy and every civil process, and there was lots of great work shown at the conference that gives hope to this dream.
The most interesting for me was Rob Sinclair from the NHS talking about My NHS which provides health open data and analysis. Having to collate data from across more than 7 different data providers to have access to all of the data in a single place sounded like a huge problem that they have been working to overcome. They now have an underlying platform (Swirrl) and links between the datasets are becoming invaluable to discovering interesting analyses such as saving millions on Statin prescriptions .
There was also a great point raised by Steve Peters (@open_data) from DCLG during the panel session about a lack of easy ways to enrich the data that you publish to make it more useful to the end users. This was also highlighted In Steve’s talk about the work that DCLG have been doing to acquire, use and publish data on their Open Data Communities site, giving the great example of the release of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data. The release created some great innovation and visualisations , but also some consternation from Jamie Whyte (@northernJamie) when trying to link the EPCs to a 3D building
Overall I came away from the conference knowing that the future is bright for data within government, and there is an awful lot of work being done by some of the best data people I know.
You can find a great write up of the rest of the conference here by Ric Roberts Swirrl CTO, and a link to the YouTube videos for the full experience https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYirSFACEje5_vBLqFzxjgNwEti_vLfxI
Jennifer Brooker, Ordnance Survey