Introducing…..Data Unity

Open data is cool, it’s sexy and it’s happening….unless of course you don’t live in the Internet and you’re not a geek. There’s nothing wrong with being a geek…but for those of us who aren’t (or who like to pretend we aren’t), the whole debate about open data can leave you feeling confused, uninspired and, well kind of ‘meh’.

For some time I’ve been rather concerned that discussions about open data and its potential are the sole preserve of data specialists. NCVO’s Karl Wilding summed it up rather nicely as ‘a minority sport played by geeks’. And yet it’s my firm believe that open data is relevant, exciting and…if not sexy, then at least important for a much wider audience, particularly social organisations and not for profit groups.

There is huge potential for VCS groups to use data more effectively – both available public data and their own data – in order to better achieve their aims. Whether it’s understanding their community or their beneficiaries, identifying need, demonstrating impact, communicating and engaging with their stakeholders or making them more transparent and accountable to beneficiaries, the potential to strengthen the way we use data could have a profound impact on how we work and the benefits we deliver.

The question then is how do we move from where we are now, to a point where using data is a routine part of our work? Clearly we have a long way to go….but as I reflected after an event held by the Big Lottery Fund and the Nominet Trust last year, we have to start somewhere.

So I was delighted to be asked by the Nominet Trust to get involved with a new project they are supporting called Data Unity. Through the Data Unity project we will be developing an open source website tool which will allow people to explore and visualise data. It will create a simple interface that will enable people who are not data specialists to interrogate data, to find new insights and to ‘play around’ with different ways of presenting the data. We want to make it easy for people to take the important first steps into the world of open data, as well as offering some more sophisticated functions for those who are more comfortable doing so. (At this point the conversation turned to Web APIs, javascript libraries and pipes…which I am sure mean something to some of you, but are well beyond my limited capabilities!)

We want Data Unity to reflect the aspirations, realities and needs of voluntary and community groups in order to make sure it’s really useful to people. We also want to work closely with groups and individuals who are interested in helping us shape the tool and the project. Whether you’re a data specialist, an interested amateur or a complete novice, we’d love to hear from you.

As you’ll see from the website, we’re just starting to get going with the project, so there’s plenty of scope to help get involved from the outset and help us to achieve our aim of developing something really useful for the not for profit sector.

To find out more or to get involved in the project email or get in touch with me.


One thought on “Introducing…..Data Unity

  1. Hi TobyThanks for sharing this, Data Unity is a great idea and I hope it will facilitate organisations like mine taking steps towards sharing and using data helpfully.If there’re any way that I can chip in please let me know – I’m thinking from both a VCS infrastructure perspective and Healthwatch (we’ve got the contract for Dudley and I think we should be both publishing information we collect and using available data related to health and social care).I’ll happily be a non-technical guinea pig for anything you want to test 🙂

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