First things first – what IS a Data Mill?
A Data Mill is, in simple terms, a platform where data that has been made open is published, giving anyone the right to access or use it under an open government license. Now, if you have read my previous blog, you’ll be familiar with the term ‘open data’.
Our philosophy at Exeter City futures is that when you unlock the power of city data and make it accessible to everyone, you create an ‘Analytical City’. This means using data and analytics to drive decision making, to help make a city healthier, more efficient, and sustainable.
With this in mind, the Exeter Data Mill was created to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for data. Exeter City Futures, and Exeter City Council basically want the Exeter Data Mill to be a place where everyone has the opportunity to question the kind of city they want to live in and have access to city data that can be used to make a real impact on the city. Within a city’s data lie all the answers needed for developing long-term solutions to tackle the issues related to urbanisation and making better decisions about the way we live our lives and build our cities.
A Data Mill can also be beneficial as a way to publish open data for public interest and knowledge, to help entrepreneurs or start-ups expand and make impact on a city, or if people want to find evidence to make a change, or influence important decision-making – amongst other reasons. This has been shown to be useful in other places like Leeds, London, Bath, and Plymouth who have their own Data Mills, with the same intention of making themselves more analytical cities that can offer potentially useful data to whomever may need it. Many argue that access to data is a civil right, one of the reasons for pre-existing laws like ‘freedom of information’ requests, where one is able to request information held by public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals, and councils.
Publishing data openly can help businesses operate better with their partners and customers, and save money.
– Sir Tim Berners-Lee (http://www.itpro.co.uk/strategy/21260/why-is-an-open-data-policy-so-important)
Why should companies share their data?
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web, and pretty much the whole reason why you are currently able to read this blog explains how “publishing data openly can help businesses operate better with their partners and customers, and save money.”
But what does this really mean?
As previously mentioned, the existence of the ‘freedom of information’ request exists, so anyone is able to request information that may benefit them. All good. But let’s not forget that these requests aren’t always granted, and only apply to government organisations. So, what if there was an easier way to get the data you want, and from other organisations and businesses – not just government ones? This is where Data Mills come into play.
Some of the advantages of data sharing have already been mentioned above, but specifically when it comes to companies sharing their data, the company can be made to look good. Data can reflect well on a company. If there are statistics and data you are proud of, or data showing off something you have done well – why not share it? Someone may find use for it somewhere else, but if not, it shows off lots of hard work.
On the flip side, what if some data doesn’t reflect well on the company? Sharing data can potentially open up opportunities for others to view statistics and work out vulnerabilities. However, if the right individuals view and analyse this data they may be able to come up with innovative solutions that actually boost business practices and processes in the long run.
The underlying idea behind sharing data is to make it more available, citable, discoverable, interpretable, reusable, and beneficial to society.
Exeter Data Mill brings together data from key stakeholders within the city and provides an opportunity for users to analyse and combine data sources; breaking down long-standing silos of knowledge. Its aim is to make clear the ways in which we can make our city a better, more fulfilling place to live.
What do we want from Exeter Data Mill? What’s the point?
- Contribution of data: We want to encourage residents and businesses to donate and request the data they want to share and see.
- Inclusion: The Exeter Data Mill is developed as a secure open-data platform for everyone across the City to access.
- Skills Development: To promote an understanding of data and its potential to enable cities and their residents to make analytical, data-driven decisions around urbanisation to encourage healthy, inclusive, and prosperous cities.
- City Collaboration: Instead of working in silos we want to encourage collaboration across the city that enables changemakers to use this data to develop unique solutions that tackle city challenges
Why not take a look at other cities data mills and see if there’s any data you would like to see on the Exeter Data Mill?
Alternatively, if you, your business, or anyone you know have interesting data that they would like to share, let us know by getting in touch with us via any of our social medias, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.