We spoke to the Open Data Institute's Chief Executive Officer Jeni Tennison about data at Defra at the end of Day 1 of our un/conference with Ordnance Survey last month.
One of the highlights of DataMash was a panel session on Day 1, featuring Defra Permanent Secretary Clare Moriarty, Ordnance Survey Chief Executive Nigel Clifford, Dean of Southampton University's Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences Rachel Mills, and Chief Executive Officer of the Open Data Institute Jeni Tennison (watch this space for a video of that session very soon). We caught up with Jeni Tennison just after the panel, and this is what she had to say.
Can I do a quick voxpop with you?
I'm Jeni Tennison, CEO for the Open Data Institute
So we're here at the first day of
#DataMash. What's your feeling about how today's gone and the value that it's had – if any?
I think it's really interesting because I'm used to hanging out with data people and we have the same conversations all the time... or it feels like we have the same conversation all the time... What's been really good in the conversations I've seen here is it seems to be people that are a bit outside that field, or who only touch on data as part of their day-to-day jobs, and that means that there's a good exchange of ideas. It's a good learning opportunity hopefully for them, but also that we see the kinds of challenges that that people are really experiencing rather the ones that we make up.
Do you think there's there's any value in perhaps a future event like this, of running more actual hands-on workshops?
Yes, I do think that there's a real real value in getting people to – like you say – actually get hands-on with some tools, and see that it's not rocket science. I think that having an environment where you can – you know – a kind of safe environment where you can ask questions, but still be doing something that's quite useful.. and you can do that in an hour... You can do just a little workshop on how to publish data on GitHub; that's very easy within an hour, and it just – I think – break down some of the fears that people have that are really unfounded just because they don't have the experience.
How does Defra – and wider government – keep up the good work that's been done in data... and how do we kind of make sure that the stuff is being done is right?
I think that one of the things that's really frustrating – and we see this coming through the Open Data Barometer a little bit – is where the data is being published as open data, but say a number of years ago and isn't being updated... and that is driven because it's not being used. I think that concentrating on that use; understanding the way in which data is used and capturing it, you know... one of the things you can do is if you if you turn off the supply of data then you find out who is really relying on it. I don't suggest that you do that really, but that's a bit that sometimes I think we don't recognise where data is being used where it's being used; which datasets are really, really worthwhile keeping up to date. So working that out and concentrating on use and concentrating on driving use... and I don't just mean outside government, I mean internally as well whether it's across the Defra group, for example, driving that use so that you then drive up data quality, you drive up the access to that data, it makes that data more worthwhile, makes all the effort that's gone into making it open more worthwhile when you can see that it it really is being used.
...And I guess the only way to find out if it is being used is to ask people to tell us?
Well, ask people to tell you, but also I think the other direction that you can come at it from, is just say: 'well, what is it that we really want to see happen in the world, and what data should we be putting out in order to see that happen... and talking to stakeholders about what data they need in order to see that change... so it's not just about asking; I think it's about going out and concretely asking people, but also thinking of engaging them not in a general conversation about what data is useful, but 'for doing *this*' what would be useful, and how can we get it to people?
Maybe even telling people what your aspiration is, while putting that data out as well... just so people are clear?
Yes... and and that can also be like I was talking about around actually promoting innovation with that data; actually doing some challenges or something that helps to raise profile of data but also to achieve some kind of output that is going to be helpful for everybody.
Thanks so much for your time, Jeni; really appreciated... thank you!