Ted Salmon: North East can lead the way on open data

Regional chairman of the FSB says that better data use could stimulate innovation and increase new business creation

FSB North East regional chairman Ted Salmon
FSB North East regional chairman Ted Salmon

The UK is recognised as leading the way internationally for its use of open data. This has largely been driven by the great work that the Government Digital Service and others like the Open Data Institute.

Across the region we can stimulate innovation, increase new business creation and improve efficiency of services by opening up data that resides within all local authorities in the North East. Publishing open data will also help small businesses grow by combining it with their own data.

Most cities and regions are sharing open data on web platforms. In Leeds, for example, Leeds Data Mill collects a wide source of datasets across from across the city including public, private and voluntary/community sector. There’s also an increasing amount of datasets being published on the data.gov.uk platform. In places like Chicago and Philadelphia these platforms have allowed hackers, developers and tinkerers establish new businesses which help the city meet economic and societal goals.

The FSB in the North East wants to see the region not only replicate these approaches but to lead the way in how this open data is used. We have been pushing for this over the past few months.

There is no doubt that the North East can become a global leader in the way that we use open data. The region has all the constituent parts to make this a reality. We have a thriving tech and digital sector with world class developers and a broader business community that wants to use data better.

It’s very easy to publish open data and we’re seeing a large number of councils in the North East doing this. There’s little value to be gained if data is published and no one knows about it.

Working with local communities helps overcome this and in turn will help the regional economy to flourish. To achieve this we need to see more follow the approach that Sunderland Council is taking.

With strong leadership from the top and a fantastic team developing a refreshingly open approach, Sunderland Council is publishing the data but working with the business community to ensure that this data is used to overcome societal challenges and grow the local economy.

This approach has been recognised by the Cabinet Office which has recognised Sunderland as the only local open data champion in the North East. This is being complemented by the great work that the Digital Catapult Centre in Sunderland is doing and will do to put us at the centre of national agenda.

We have a strong story to tell on how we are using data but have allowed other cities to take the spotlight. Scratch beneath the surface on what some of these leading cities are doing and it feels a lot like the The Emperor’s New Clothes. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate what can be really achieved with open data and lead the way.

The North East has a great opportunity to become a global leader in the way we use open data. We have all the constituent parts to achieve this in both the public and private sector. We must now act together to achieve this.

  • Ted Salmon is regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses

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