Proving the use case for Open Data

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

The purpose of this project is to develop a repeatable methodology to build use cases to support the release of open data. The current method of releasing data, to meet commitments under the Local Government Transparency Code, does not systematically take account of user needs in the use and reuse of data.

There is a wide belief that releasing open data provides wider social benefit but at present there is no empirical process to demonstrate this value.  In allocating resources to support open data it is often difficult for Local Authorities to make sustainable business case due to the absence of tangible metrics.

The objective of this project is to broadly categorise data types and sets that are common to Local Authority data platforms. These categories will be used to identify the people and organisations that use data then assess the value that they receive.

Through the systematic application of a Lean UX methodology the project will build up a profile of user journeys, common personas and user requirements for open data platforms. Through comparing and contrasting the experiences of a range of different authorities we will be able to build a common strategy and roadmap for other organisations, that release data to use.

The benefit of this project will be realised through developing a common framework for each of the partner organisations to use and then ensuring that this is implemented consistently.

The three key events in delivering this project, including their measurable milestones, will be: –

  1.      Building a profile of common data sets in a register across the partner organisations
  •         Community outreach to identify users of common data sets
  •         Contextual interviews with users in each local authority area to develop:
  1.    User journeys
  2.    Personas
  3.    User needs
  4.    User requirements
  5.      Sharing assets developed in number one with partner agencies
  •         Identify a key common dataset to use as a prototype
  •         Ideation process to build a prototype
  1.      User testing of prototype
  •         Build a strategy and roadmap for wider implementation from prototype
  •         Benefits case for repeat implementation of this project

Each stage of this process will result in tangible (polished, publishable)  assets that will be made publicly available through the project website. The project will encourage local submissions from partner agencies to be made publicly available so that the experience of local user testing can be contrasted with the experience of the project.

The project will be delivered locally by partner authorities using their existing value networks. ODI Birmingham will be commissioned to deliver support to train partner agencies in the Lean UX methodology, where needed, and to coordinate the repository of developed assets and the project website.

The Local Government Transparency Code requires local authorities to make a certain data sets available under an Open Government License. The push to release data has created significant data resources within communities but, as yet, we do not have an empirical method to demonstrate the value that is being realised through open data. Anecdotal evidence from community organisations that have taken on data research to improve their services shows that access to open data can have a benefit to increase active citizens and public service development. However, data release is inconsistent both across and within authorities.

The objective of releasing open data, in line with the Code, is to promote local transparency and increase accountability and availability of data, thereby allowing project partners to engage communities and businesses to use this data in service development. These objectives will be better met through continuity of data release, interoperability of data sets and certainty of data quality.

We need to understand who the users of local open data are and whether we are meeting their needs in order to generate value. The identification of use cases will help us to reinforce the business case around releasing data and will help us to shape the way that data is released and how it is made publicly available.

The benefit of this work will be in supporting Local Authority staff to understand the wider benefits of releasing data, gaining an understanding of how data that is released is used and being able to quantify the collateral benefits of open data.

The basis of this project is to carry out user research in three different Local Authority areas and to use comparable data to assess common use cases for Open Data. Collaboration will take place between Birmingham City Council, Leicester City Council and Wolverhampton City Council.

The structure of the project is designed to arrive at a common insight that is useful across different Local Authorities. The common data register, that is the first stage of the project, will be used to build a base line to ensure that like for like can be measured. We anticipate that the to work identify a common data register, across partner agencies, can be later expanded to support the wider community of Authorities to replicate this process.

The process to build local use cases, and then bring these together, will ensure that the project is locally responsive but will also be able to accommodate a regional and potentially national approach at a later stage.

All assets developed, within this project, and the detailed processes created to build them, will be made publicly available through a dedicated website that will be built to support the delivery of the project and will be maintained at the project’s conclusion.

This project has been designed to deliver a range of outputs that will benefit the partner organisations but will also be able to support replication of this process. The identified milestones have been built to fit within the tight time scale set by the project framework and will be deliverable by the last week of the project.

The final asset produced will be a benefit case to support other local authorities to repeat this process. The intention of the benefit case is to be able to quantify how benefits can be realised through a structured approach to how data is released stored and used. This will support a wider business case for systemising this approach into data portals.

The project site will detail the totality of user research, both by local partners and across the project. This detailed repository of assets will function as the evidence base for how the project has delivered benefits but also best practice in replicating the process.

The conclusion of this project, that will be incorporated within the concluding benefits case will be a detailed outline of how this project will progress to Alpha stage. The intention is to be able to systematically identify users of open data and provide a framework to be able to identify whether data meets their needs and if it generates value for them.

The caveat to that intention is that the project user research and prototyping will, inevitably, shape the proposed direction for implementation at Alpha stage.

The core purpose of this project is to develop repeatable user research and engagement to demonstrate the value of open data and the benefits it realises. One of the key elements of the project is to draw a clear picture of who users of open data are.

Based on anecdotal information we believe that open data users, who will be the focus of this project fall into four categories:-

  1.       Members of the public that have an interest in public transparency and accountability
  2.    SMEs, community groups and civic tech organisations that use open data to develop applications and services
  3.       Partner organisations that use open data as the most efficient use to support integration
  4.       Internal use by Local Authorities

Engagement with these categories will support us to understand user need and to reflect those needs in generic user personas.

Certain specific training needs have been identified that will be beneficial to partners in delivering this project and scaling the lessons learned to other similar projects. Training areas we would benefit from additional support for are:-

  1. Digital leadership training
  2. Introduction to user research
  3. Introduction to digital business analysis

None of the partner authorities listed in this bid have been funded for this project in the past.