Slash Open and the Open Data Challenge

At a the recent Unlocking the potential of Open Data event held by Lasa Louise Brown and I presented a session on what can be done by non-profit organisations when they open up just a tiny crumb of data. Our aim was to encourage organisations to not only make use of data already out there but to open some of their own data up in turn and see what can happen.

We set the Open Data Challenge to encourage organisations to get started. We asked organisations to share their UK Charity Number and the number of people or organisations they worked with in the financial year 2010-2011. Matt from Lamplight then did a quick mash-up to demonstrate how even just a small piece of data can yield potentially exciting results.

In preparing the session we put together an online resource to support the Open Data Challenge called VCS Open. It was based on the Slash Open model, listing UK voluntary organisations who have opened their data, and hacks and mash-ups that have been done based on that data. After the session however it quickly became apparent that there was a considerable duplication of labour in maintaining the VCSOpen directory with the Slash Open directory so we will be transferring that resource to the Slash Open pages and look forward to helping build an international “one-stop-shop” for non-profit Open Data.

The voluntary and non-profit sectors are taking their first steps in Open Data. The benefits in learning, sharing, trust, transparency and accountability are enormous but these benefits are hindered by the scattered nature of the datasets. There is currently no central repository for voluntary sector Open Data as there is for government data (e.g. data.gov.uk). Organisations are publishing their data on their own websites and this limits how readily accessible that data really is. This is where Slash Open comes in.

By publishing their Data to a /open page and then listing that page in the Slash Open directory, organisations can make sure their data is open in a real sense. In turn, those people who are accessing the data and using it can post the results to the directory so it can be used by the organisations themselves. This is just the start but I believe Slash Open could provide a gateway to the “critical mass” of data we need to see the real and, as yet, unrealised benefits of Open Data. Let’s get behind it and see where it takes us!