Charities must pressure government on open data, says NPC

28 November 2013

Current agenda 'focused on profit-making rather than social objectives'

Charities need to be pushing government to ensure the open data agenda is tailored to their needs, according to the consultancy and think tank NPC
Speaking at the Charity Technology Conference in London this week, NPC's data lab project manager Tracey Gyateng warned that the sector needs to make its voice heard to encourage the release of data and to ensure the government's open data activities address social objectives.
“There's a whole range of initiatives, but we need to get our voices heard,” said Gyateng. :”Even in the Open Data White Paper and the Shakespeare Review, its about how to make lots of money from data, when actually for the charity sector its not about making money, its how we change lives with the data. 
“Within the Cabinet Office there is the Transparency Unit and there's open data user groups, where you can tell them you need certain datasets to be made available.”
Gyateng did give the government credit, saying it has given a “big push” to ensure that the UK is a world leader in open data. She highlighted, which collects together the various available datasets and also lists those that can be requested. 
She added that charities should also be looking to open up their own data, citing guidance by the Open Data Institute as helpful when doing this. However, she warned that engaging with any sort of open data can be disruptive, because negative results can lead to searching questions about a charity's approach. 
Elsewhere at the event, Oxfam policy researcher Richard King was effusive in revealing the benefits his charity had had in working with the non-profit big data collective DataKind UK. Oxfam worked with volunteer data researchers to map seasonal prices in developing countries. 
However, King did warn that while the experience “opened up our eyes to what is possible”, it had involved the use of a very expensive software package, meaning it also “exposed our limitations”.
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Gareth Jones

Gareth Jones is a journalist and communications consultant specialising in charity finance. As editorial manager of Slack Communications, he co-authors Charity Financials' range of Spotlight reports and writes regularly for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. Previously he was editor of the Charity Finance Group's member magazine Finance Focus and senior reporter at both Charity Finance magazine and

Elsewhere he writes articles and edits special supplements for the New Statesman, advises businesses and charities on their PR, blogging and digital strategies, and holds a master's degree in Public Policy from King's College London.

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