BI and Tech

Transforming Daily Life with Open Data

Big data is a commonly used phrase when discussing business intelligence and previous articles have focused on misconceptions about BI and how both structured and unstructured data (including social media information) has been used to build real world models to help people live happier lives. The latter might seem more of a gimmick than an actuality, but as more information is recorded about every aspect of society, the data pool becomes an increasingly powerful tool in tackling widespread problems and changing daily life.

Open Data

The previous article focused on New York City’s Office of Policy and Strategy Planning which is using city-wide data to dramatically improve public services and stamp out illegal activity. Taking a step back and looking at a bigger picture, Open data is the latest phrase being bounced around as a catalyst for change. Open data is information that is freely available on the internet that can be used by anyone without restriction.

It is non-personal anonymous data that has been made available by governments around the world, and subjects can range from reported crimes, to train timetables, to infection rates in hospitals. The Open Data Institute (ODI) is an independent, non-profit organisation that is dedicated to acting as a catalyst for economic, environmental and social change, by unlocking the value of open data. By supporting organisations using open data, the ODI is affecting nationwide change in the UK and overseas. The ODI was founded in 2012 by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and the ODI is only just beginning to scratch the surface of the power of open data and what it can achieve.

Data Entrepreneurs

Mastodon C is a start-up agency, backed by the ODI, which took prescription information on statins published by GPs in England and it showed how the NHS could save more than £200 million a year. Another start-up, Transport API, used Transport for London data to help commuters alter their journeys and avoid disruption, which is estimated to have saved the London economy £58 million a year.

These are just two of ten start-ups the ODI has helped in the last year who are using open data to deliver keen insight and challenge existing behaviour. Anyone can access open data and can act as an agent of change, and the ODI is keen to support entrepreneurs who are helping to transform public services and affect government policy. This month the ODI is hosting its annual summit at the Museum of London and is bringing together a range of speakers to share information about how data is being used and shared to transform daily life. These include technologists, data scientists, members of Government, journalists and analytics officers, including Michael Flowers, previously mentioned in last week’s article on Big Data in the Big Apple.

Self Service Business Intelligence

As with big data, a business needs an effective way of analysing large amounts of open data and turning it into something manageable that can be easily interpreted. Some of the ODI start-ups offer services to help translate data via different technology platforms, including dashboard reporting software. However, regardless of any insight a third party can deliver, you know your business and industry better than anyone else. Instead of outsourcing the analysis, a self service BI dashboard would provide you with the right tools to query the data, find answers to important questions, and drive efficiency in your organisation.