Smart people in a smart city
There have been some big grins in the Bath: Hacked community this week due to a couple of high-profile mentions of the work we’ve been doing. I thought it would be a good opportunity to summarise what we’re trying to achieve both now and in the future.
Last Wednesday, the Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey, gave the opening speech at the Telegraph Smart Cities Conference. His speech highlighted the need for cities to become more effective at managing change, planning, and sharing information. He also celebrated the UK’s capability and some early successes in exploring “smarter” infrastructure, including a prominent mention of Bath: Hacked:
“…the UK is delivering data-driven innovation. Crossrail will be a digital railway, setting a new benchmark in smart infrastructure development.
At the other end of the scale there are many innovative local data projects, like Bath Hacked, which uses open data to help with school applications, track new business creation, guide travel around town, and report on air quality.”
His comment references the range of different apps and visualisations that the community has made and continues to build.
Vaizey also mentioned Bath: Hacked again in a response to a question by Ben Howlett in the commons last Thursday. The exchange is captured here on parliament.tv.
Ben has since commented that:
“It is great to hear that the Government recognises the tech hub which exists in Bath and Bristol and the huge impact it has on our economy. Bath: Hacked is leading the innovations with technology, putting open data and smart thinking at the heart of the economy. I was honoured to be asked to judge their summer event, where I enjoyed listening to some fascinating solutions to local problems using open data. I whole heartedly agree with Ed Vaizey that Bath would be a fantastic setting for the next Bond movie and I look forward to welcoming them to the city.”
Whether we’ll be seeing Daniel Craig in a car chase around the Orange Grove remains to be seen. But what’s not in doubt is that the community should be proud of what its achieved so far. We’ve done a fantastic amount with the support of some amazing sponsors and a dedicated volunteer community.
Creating real change takes time, effort and patience. Our approach has been to create steady, local improvements by championing the benefits of an open approach whilst supporting and encouraging the local tech community in the creation of useful things for residents and visitors. Big impact is the sum of lots of small changes. Our golden rules are at the core of that approach.
This week, Jon Poole is in the US at the Socrata customer summit, to talk about the history of the organisation and to share his experiences of working openly with the Bath: Hacked community. The model we’re exploring here in Bath may work well in other cities too. For us making Bath a smart city is about enabling individuals and communities to improve their lives. Open data and an open culture are important elements of that.
This is why we’re building a community owned data infrastructure that brings together data from as many different sources as possible. Open data provides the raw materials that enable people to work together to solve problems. Data and technology themselves don’t magically solve problems, people do. We can help make the raw data accessible, but we’re looking to be guided by the community as to what problems need to be solved or where additional help is needed.
As a group, our offer to the local community, businesses, charities and government is three-fold:
- We can help you publish your data – the data store can be used freely by anyone wanting to publish open data. The only caveats are that it must be published under an open licence and that it must be relevant to our local area. Shared infrastructure is cheaper for everyone and it provides a space for everyone to participate.
- We can help you find the information you need – if you have a question then we want to help you find the answer. That may involve getting some raw data or finding an application or visualisation that tells you what you need to know. It may be reaching out to other local organisations who might have relevant data. Being more informed about the local area brings clarity to local problems.
- We can help you work with the tech community to solve problems – whether its connections made via our regular meetups, through running a hack day or similar challenge, or through other more formal collaborations, we want to help demonstrate the benefits of working in the open. But, importantly, we’re not competing with local businesses and start-ups.
We hope this mission has clear benefits and value and that local organisations will continue to sponsor and support what we do. That sponsorship is vital to our future. If you’re interested in supporting what we do then please get in touch.