Open Data Institute Expands Its Vision Across Borders

The network of 13 international ‘Nodes’ could attract millions to the open data cause, says ODI CEO Gavin Starks

The Open Data Institute (ODI), the UK non-profit organisation co-founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt to make better use of the huge amounts of data collected by the public sector, has signed up 13 organisations around the world to act as its ‘Nodes’.

These include universities, businesses and NGOs that support open data projects and communities and subscribe to the ODI Charter. The Nodes will run two country-wide trials in the US and Canada, as well as nine regional projects, with Manchester, Brighton, and Leeds representing the UK.

The official signing ceremony took place at the first annual ODI Summit in London on Tuesday.

Going global

ODI-ODC-1“With the Nodes, it’s very much about getting our hands around the existing ecosystem,” Gavin Starks, ODI CEO  told TechWeekEurope . “There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people worldwide working in the open data community. How can we connect all of those people and amplify [their work] so we end up with millions of people who are able to work in this space?

“The structure of Nodes is very much about helping those existing communities to connect with each other, and bring more people into the field.”

In 2009, the Prime Minister appointed Shadbolt and Berners-Lee as information advisors to the government, trusting them to transform access to government data. This work culminated last December, when the two established ODI – a non-profit headquartered in London’s Tech City. A year later, ODI is already building a global network of organisations that share its goals.

“We are dealing with these really big questions. How do we address social challenges like healthcare and transportation? How do we address population growth? How do we address environmental sustainability, looking at our supply chains? All of these things can benefit from open data,” said Starks. “And if everybody knows how to use the data and how to use the tools, we can get better insights to inform those decisions.”

The Nodes include three different types of participation. The most ambitious projects are the country-wide trials run by NGOs in the USA and Canada that work across public and private sectors. Next are the eight regional Nodes in Dubai, Chicago, North Carolina, Paris, Trento, Manchester, Brighton and Leeds that deliver open data projects and provide additional training and research opportunities.

Finally, the communication Nodes in Gothenburg, Moscow and Buenos Aires will focus on “telling the story of open data” and lay the groundwork for further engagements with the open data movement.

The Nodes differ from the existing corporate membership programme, which includes ODI supporters like Deloitte, Arup, Telefonica Digital and NTT Data.

Even after signing the Charter, the ODI Nodes will maintain independence from the UK organisation. “This is a very powerful part of the Node principle – we let people to get on with their own work, but when we need to speak with one voice, we can come together and speak with one voice as the ODI. We will work out how to do that over the coming months and years,” explained Starks.

“This year has been astonishing – we brought together a community, made an amazing economic impact, but we’re brand new and shiny. Next year, we’ll have to focus on delivery – there have to be evidence-based case studies, and we will be telling those stories.”

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