Open data: solutions for problems

It’s been a while since I blogged about open data, but there’s been lots going on. I was very excited to take part in a Guardian Voluntary Sector network Q&A this afternoon, with lots of really interesting people on the panel: Laura and Chris from Barnsley Hospice, who’ve been doing interesting things with their data; Ed from the Nominet Trust, who have funded a series of open data days; Tim Davies, an expert developer and open data thinker; Matt from Lamplight DB, Matthew from Indigo Trust and Ian from Lasa. We had a great chat in the comments section, with lots of interesting ideas and thoughts.

Jenny and I also took part in a podcast for Gov 2.0 radio, an internet radio station, again talking about open data. We talked about a whole range of things, and talked about some of the people and projects I mention above.

But one other open data win for me this week was open data producing a solution to a problem I had. We’re interested in Community Interest Companies (CICs) – they’re a new part of civil society, and one that is growing rapidly. But we know very little about them, so every bit of data we can get is helpful.

Someone pointed out earlier this week that the list of CICs on the BIS website was no more – they’d decided not to show it any more. This was a bit of a blow as this was this list I’d used to try and track these organisations. I’d even written a scraperwiki script to make using the information even easier.

However, an open data solution presented itself. I got in touch with Chris Taggart, who runs opencorporates, an open register of companies across the world. He showed me how to use the OpenCorporates api to find a list of CICs, which is a perfect replacement for the one I used to use. The data is published under a license that means I can use it for our research, and that if we add anything to the data we have to share it back to the community.

So thanks to Chris for the open data solution to my problem (and for suggesting I blog about it!)

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David Kane was formerly NCVO’s Senior Research Officer. He discusses open data and emerging trends in the voluntary and community sector and wider civil society.

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