I was favourably surprised by the #IODC15 first day. With so many “open data dignitaries” in the house, I worried that I would have missed the authenticity of the unconference’s grassroot community, but I was happily proven wrong.
It is too easy to say great things about Nigel Shadbolt, so I will skip that and get to the next point. It was greatly refreshing to see our movement getting to a point of maturity where we can stop spending all the time patting each other’s back.
The speakers – from US Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil to the brilliant Sam Pitroda, Shadbolt himself and many others – consistently and emphatically reminded us of the risk of “preaching to the converted”.
The difficulty of establishing a consistent open data discourse across so many countries was discussed repeatedly, as we still are divided by ambiguity around the language we use to describe openness and transparency but also, more tangibly, by the digital divide in infrastructure. The ODI launched a programme specifically to discuss data infrastructure globally, nationally and locally: who owns it, how it can benefit everyone, what makes it stronger and resilient.
Something that I probably felt more than others – as an Office for National Statistics fanboy – are the references to the threat of budget cuts penalising the public services that are responsible of creating key national datasets, e.g. in demography. Moderator, journalist and IODC veteran Alex Howard was not afraid of hitting Canada’s president of the Treasury Board Tony Clement there where it hurts: the recent cuts to the country’s statistical service budget and the census operations.
Lots of work still to do then, and for each and everyone of us. It’s a new day at #IODC15.
Disclaimer: Nigel Shadbolt is one of the supervisors to my PhD in social machines for open data.