Leaving on a High

Leaving on a High

Deep breath

I’m leaving Hampshire County Council, and am stepping down as lead for the Hampshire Hub.

There, I’ve said it.

Looking back

I wrote my first post Hampshire Hub (Thoughts on What a Hampshire Hub might be) in February 2012. In those days, HH was a tiny ‘thinking aloud’ web site I’d cobbled together using WordPress (which is what I was using for my own blog).

A few months later, a few of us in the Research and Intelligence team at Hampshire County Council put a business case together, asking the Council to stump up the cash to fund a project to create a local information system for Hampshire.

Local information systems are nothing new, and there had been a previous attempt in Hampshire a few years earlier which had grand ambitions, but didn’t make it for various reasons including technological limitations and lack of partner buy-in.

We spent some time studying the previous project in an attempt to learn from the past, and surveyed all the other local information systems we could find in the U.K. We were pretty pleased with a response rate of nearly 50%, and used the results to help inform our own Hampshire Hub business case July 2012.

Build it and they will come

We (the County Council) knew other organisations would be interested, but but didn’t think it was realistic to ask potential partners for money in advance, so we proposed that the County stump up all (approx £100k over several years) of the funding to get something up and running. The Council’s corporate management team agreed, and we set about approaching potential partners.

Building the Hub

We built some functionality into the ‘thinking aloud’ site to the extent that we were able to refer to it as a ‘prototype’ without anyone sniggering. We began publishing open data, both locally sourced and also national data that applied to Hampshire (using data packs supplied by OCSI).  We also built a broad partnership, with representatives of 20+ organisations regularly participating in meetings of the strategic partnership board.


By 2013 we had built sufficient functionality  – and published enough open data – that we started calling the system the ‘interim’ Hampshire Hub. We didn’t pretend it was a ‘proper’ data store, however, and began exploring the market for possible technological solutions to help us deliver the vision for the Hampshire Hub. My clumsy attempt to represent that vision is shown below.

hampshire hub overview

Five stars

In 2014 we appointed linked data specialists Swirrl to help deliver the Hampshire Hub vision, and they’ve given us a superb data store, built on 5 star linked open data. Development isn’t fully complete, and there will be a succession of further improvements in the coming six months or so, as well as lots more lovely open data. There are also plans to link-up with others producing linked open data, such as the DCLG’s Open Data Communities.

We are the champions

In parallel to developing the Hampshire Hub, we’ve been engaging with others trying to do similar things across the UK. What started as a few of us chatting, has turned into a fully-fledged open data champions’ network. Hampshire is one of sixteen authorities identified by the Cabinet Office as leaders and exemplars of local open data, and this was acknowledged by Leader of Hampshire County Council during Cabinet.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, hosted a meeting for council leaders and senior executives of the sixteen local authorities to recognise the work done to-date.  In his speech at the Open Data Champions event on 24th March 2015, Francis Maude said:

Since the very beginning we have been keen that local authorities reap the benefits of open data and some of the most innovative work is now taking place at the local level.

Here today we have 16 local and regional authorities that have been identified as open data champions, whose work is truly trailblazing.

They are setting the standards in open data and transparency by putting data back into the hands of citizens to create opportunities for innovation, economic growth, better public services and new levels of accountability. They are recognising the fundamental role that data and digital will play in the local authority of the future, and are putting it at the forefront of public service transformation.

BlueLight Camping

BlueLightCamp will be returning 6-7th June in Birmingham

I’m one of the organisers of BlueLightCamp – an annual unconference and open data hack for the emergency services community. In May 2014 we brought BlueLightCamp to Hampshire, which helped bring about a little bit of engineered serendipity, including a ground-breaking initiative which brings predictive analytics to the open data and emergency services community in the UK, and a really neat utility @3dayflood which automatically tweets Environment Agency flood warnings for the next three days.

We’re currently planning the next BlueLightCamp, which will be the weekend of 6-7th June, hosted in Birmingham by West Midlands Fire Service.

Open Data Camping

One of the many outputs from Open Data Camp

What started with a speculative tweet at the end of October 2014 turned into a (UK) first ever Open Data Camp, which was held in February 2015. Over 150 people gathered in Winchester over a weekend to talk and do neat stuff with open data.

I have to admit, there was more talk than ‘making of stuff’ with open data, but some of that talk was fantastic, and – rather than being a mutual back-slapping event – helped overcome real-life problems. There are lots of blog posts about that on the Open Data Camp home page.

We’re now starting to plan the next one which will be somewhere in the North of England, in around October 2015. Prior to that, Open Data Camp will be dropping-in to BlueLightCamp in June. See Jamie Whyte’s blog post for more about all of that.

It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it

Screenshot 2015-03-29 15.26.22
GP Pressure Map (click to launch)

One of the things which really excites me about the Hampshire Hub is that people are treating it like it’s a public resource (clue: it is). If you’ve not looked before, take a look at the initiatives currently under way. The majority have been started by people OUTSIDE of the Hampshire Hub partnership. Sure, we’re collaborating with and supporting them, but much of the energy and drive is coming from outside.

WUDoWUD data on the Hartree Visualisation Screen
WUDoWUD data on the Hartree Visualisation Screen

Traditionally, very few people get excited about open data, but some of these initiatives are really quite, er, sexy: there’s 3D visualisation, (not) Rocket Science, and crowdsourcing.

We’re also helping people to stay in their own homes for longer,  breaking new ground predicting weather-related emergency blackspots, and using open data to identify those GP surgeries who will be under the most pressure due to increases in demand .

Several of the companies who have instigated new initiatives using the Hampshire Hub are now collaborating with each other – if it hadn’t been for the Hub, they might never have met.

Onwards and upwards

My own time leading the Hampshire Hub is coming to an end, and I’m sad to be leaving. That said, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and am really excited that there’s so much momentum. I’m handing over the leadership to my friend and colleague Warwick Currie, who I’m confident will ensure the Hub continues to thrive.

I haven’t quite decided what I’m doing next personally, but I’m in no doubt that it’ll be something in the digital / open data space. I’ll undoubtedly continue to use open data, and Hampshire Hub, just from a different perspective. I wish Hampshire Hub well, and all who sail in her.