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ODI sets up institution to promote public data sharing

The Open Data Institute has set up an institution to support the Open Referral UK data standard geared to promote more sharing of public sector data

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has announced the formation of an organisation to support the government-backed Open Referral UK data standard to promote better public sector data sharing.

Nigel Shadbolt, co-founder and chairman of the ODI, announced the formation of the institute today at its event, Sharing Data Better: The Rise of Data Institutions.

“With the importance of the use of data in mind, it really does please me to be able to announce that the Open Data Institute is today forming an institution for the Open Referral UK data standard,” he said. 

Open Referral UK, according to its website, defines a standard structure to provide a “consistent way of gathering and using data”. This is to solve the apparent problem of public sector organisations duplicating “directory content” in each of their localities.

It provides, said the ODI, “a means of describing public and community services so that information can be shared and combined in a way that everyone understands”.

The government’s Data Standards Authority has endorsed the standard, and stated its benefits as including: the ability to collect information once and share it between government and public sector organisations; publish information easily, and find and use resource directory information among local councils, government organisations and voluntary bodies; and exchange data between software products in a non-proprietary way, at minimal cost and without supplier lock-in.

Shadbolt’s speech continued: “This, our first very own Data Institution, will give us first-hand knowledge and hands-on experience of the day-to-day stewardship of data. Open Referral members will include representatives from the international Open Referral community, and we aim to bring the UK and international Open Referral communities even closer together over time. 

“The institution will represent the interests of organisations which invest in this data standard, including local authorities, government departments, the NHS, community and private organisations. It will help people who are adopting the standard and give them confidence in its longevity and responsiveness to requests for improvements. 

“Our ambition is to open up service data to enable efficient reuse for many purposes, to encourage incremental improvement via feedback from mass exposure, and to stimulate innovation amongst application developers.”

In an ODI press statement, Shadbolt said: “Since the inception of the Open Data Institute in 2012, I have been talking about the value, power and necessity of data institutions. But, the ODI has never had a data institution of its own – until now, that is. 

“Over those 10 years, the ODI has laid the groundwork for innovative, practical data projects such as open banking, while establishing itself as a voice that both government and business listen to. With the adoption of this data standard, we take that one step further.”

In the same statement, Mike Thacker, director of Porism, a software company that works with the Local Government Association, local authorities and the ODI, said: “Early adopters have shown the power of the Open Referral UK standard for sharing data and avoiding tie-in to proprietary systems. I now expect the institution to take the standard to another level, mainstreaming it among public organisations and commercial suppliers.”

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