The Geek Layer

And Gov said “Let there be data” and there was data and he looked and he saw that it was open.

In the past I’ve had my doubts and my rants about the claims made for open data and its potential for bringing transparency to political process. I think my frustrations came from the idea that Gov 2.0 was the answer to everything and all we needed was the right “app” and all problems would be solved. For someone like me who has spent many years working in the realm of digital inclusion this just didn’t make sense.

The Geek Layer on Prezi

“The Power of Information: An independent review by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg” was published in 2007; that’s 4 years ago. The Governments response came from Hilary Armstrong at the Cabinet Office in June of that year; she highlighted three Government challenges:

  • Engage in partnerships with user-led online communities;
  • Ensuring that it fully understands and responds appropriately to changes in the information market; and
  • Advising civil servants on how best to participate in new media

Acknowledging that things would not happen over night she expressed confidence: “to unlock the value of the information we collect on behalf of citizens; to deliver better public services; and to support world-class innovation that underpins a growing part of our knowledge economy.”

I believe that the challenge has been met and open data is about to come of age and that is why Penval is supporting Shropcamp.

I confess to being heavily influenced by the work of the Institute for the Future: particularly Anthony Townsend’s work funded by The Rockefeller Foundation: “The Future of Cities, Information and Inclusion” in which he looks at how open data can be used at all levels of urban society from strategic planning through local governance to individuals in communities. Used in this way, data can lead to understanding and understanding empowers people to coproduce service designs that properly meet their needs.

From the work Penval has undertaken on digital inclusion I know that very shortly we will start to see the fruits of the work that Government has done on KHub. Local Government statistics that can be combined with location data to inform local decision making through an interface called Local Government Inform. The journey from raw data to information is a complex one but one of the side benefits of that process will be data that can be accessed by communities. I believe that we are going to see the emergence of a new kind of community champion; someone who understands how that raw data can be turned into something those communities can use someone who has not just the technical capability but also the skills for working with people in the community. I call them the Geek Layer. As we start to understand the impact of the Localism Bill, the close relationship between planning, community assets and the coproduction of services it is the Geek Layer that will empower local decision making and really generate public value

What would Penval like to see? The time has come for the ideas that underpin smart cities to find their application in rural communities. I would like to see the Smart Parish, and I have ideas about the ways in which open data can make that happen. If you want to share those ideas and contribute to the thinking then we look forward to meeting you at Shropcamp on the 19th April.


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