9. You've published, now what?
Publishing your data isn't enough. For your open data to have positive societal and economic impact you must be committed to improving, updating and engaging with the public.
Improve your data
Continuous improvement should be a key feature of your open data initiative. As well as acting upon external feedback about your data, you should also have an internal review to see what areas you can improve.
ODI certificates are a great tool to assess your published data. They ask useful questions and give you clear targets to aim for in order to improve your data.
Tell everybody! Let people know that you have opened up some datasets. Consider your audience. If there is a certain group of people you want to target, what would be the best way to get the message to them? A few simple promotion ideas are:
- press release
- announcement on website
- inclusion in your Guide to Information
- social media promotion
- post on third party sites - contact popular sites/blogs with an interest in this area and offer to write an article or post
- contact leading organisations who have an interest/work in this area - they will likely be happy to spread the word
- use any relevant internal mailing lists/contacts to directly contact people
Making people aware your open data exists is an essential step, but it isn't enough. You need to encourage them to use your data. It is worthwhile investing time and money in this stage because it means success: people actually using your datasets is the outcome you should be aiming for. It also brings may other benefits including:
- Greater civic participation in your organisation - your relationship with your customers and the wider public will become more open
- Potential positive impact on society and economic benefits if a new tool or app is created from the data
- Efficiencies - time and cost savings. Users will also be happy to give feedback to help improve data quality.
- You will know what to release next - as users start to understand what data you have available and what they need, they will begin requesting more datasets
Hackdays are a great way to engage with the community and bring together developers, open data enthusiasts, the local community and your organisation. These events allow developers and citizens to work creatively to solve issues. Promotion of your event is key to generate excitement and interest. Apps developed at hackdays can be very successful (see EdinburghApps case study), though the main aim should be to increase interest and participation.
Socrata has developed a comprehensive guide to planning a hackathon.
SEWeb organised a hackathon event. Students from universities throughout Scotland were invited to come up with fresh new innovative ideas to make better use of available data, and to collect new local environmental data that can help further our understanding, and encourage people to get interested and get involved in Scotland's Environment. Feedback from all who attended was overwhelmingly positive and the next step is to see how ideas can be supported beyond the prototype stage.
More information about the event can be found in the case studies section.
Competitions give developers a slightly longer time frame to showcase what can be developed from your data. A prize will normally be awarded to the winner.
NYC Big Apps
Over five months, BigApps challenges developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to create functioning, marketable technology tools that help solve pressing civic challenges. In 2015 the 4 key areas are affordable housing, zero waste, connecting cities and civic engagement. Over $125,000 in cash prizes and product development support is available to finalists and winning teams. More information can be found on BigApps.
Conferences and Meet-Ups
Face-to-face events are a great way to encourage use of data. Conferences are a traditional way of engaging with others where you set the agenda and arrange presentations on set topics. It is a great way to show what you have been doing and share your future plans and developments. Due to the topic and audience you are trying to attract, it is best you try and include interactive elements where possible. This will allow you to find out more about them, discover interest level and enable re-users to connect with each other.
Instead of the traditional conference, you could host a more informal, participant driven event. A meet-up could allow participants to form the agenda, give presentations and lead sessions on their areas of interest.
Any event will increase exposure and potentially increase likely users.
Develop an App
Get creative and make something yourself! One of the best ways to show what your data can do is for you to make something yourself. If you have the time and technical resources you could develop a user-friendly app which addresses an issue in your organisation or community, or even just demonstrates what your data can do.
As part of the Open Data Scotland programme run by Nesta and Code for Europe, Clackmannishire Council developed an app, Clacks Kids, which would help parents and carers access personalised childcare resources. The app has been developed to support the councils Making Clackmannashire Better Programme.
More information of Clackmannanshire Councils experience developing the app can be found in our case study section.
Run the City App
Run the City is a guided tour for runners and winner of the 'wild card' challenge for EdinburghApps 2014. Runners will always get their run in, even when away on business, but running in a strange city is difficult when you don't know where to go. Run the City solves this challenge as the app, through audio messages, not only gives runners directions but also highlights their attention to the city sights and makes their run in Edinburgh more engaging with anecdotes about the areas they are running through.
It utilises the Council's open data as content for the app and will also create data we can make open. More information can be found in the case study.
Make it sustainable
Holding hack events and competitions are ideal in the short term, but are not sustainable. You need to make open data become the norm in your organisation.
To do this you need to appoint someone, whether existing or additional, to be responsible for your open data efforts. You will then require others to support this role by being responsible for open data in their own division or departments. This does not need to be a new person, but could be delegated to existing employees. These individuals should work together to co-ordinate open data efforts in your organisation, publish data, engage with public and address feedback.
Helsinki is a great example of how open data can transform public services for the better.