I often attend many meetings and the first questions I get asked is what is open data? And what is Leeds Data Mill?
Hopefully, this short article will help answer these questions. Open data is the publication of information, which can range from a list of Leeds Children’s Centres to a list of places to eat and drink in Leeds, it could also include information on people helped by your service or a list of 3rd sector events. The information is published in a CSV format (a version of Excel which makes the file easy to read on any type of computer), under an open government licence (this mean anyone can re-use the information for research, interest or profit) and is non-commercially sensitive or personal data (or is anonymised in such a way that no one could be identified).
In its simplest terms, Leeds Data Mill is a website where the open data is held and where anyone interested in Leeds Open Data can visit the site and download the information they want. Even though Leeds Data Mill is hosted by Leeds City Council, it is a city wide platform, with 17 different organisations publishing a whole range of information.
But, Leeds Data Mill is also much more, it is an engagement tool, with its regular innovation labs (where services or organisations come together with the digital community in Leeds and have a look at the information and come up with innovative solutions to an issue). Issues could range from 'How can we make Leeds the best city to grow old in’ to ‘How can I get more people to use our service’. You can read up on previous innovation labs on the Leeds Data Mill website.
Leeds Data Mill can also showcase your information in a different way from the usual long list of figures. With the launch of the dashboard, soon you will be able to create your own visualisations. You can also use the graph function on the data mill site to quickly create a graph or pie chart.
The next question I often get is, why bother? There are many reasons to publish your information. Publication makes it easier for organisations to share information and increases awareness of the work you do and accountability of your organisation. Publishing may also improve fundraising and help target service provision. Open data has massive potential for the city and with 183 datasets published we are only just beginning.
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