People from across the co-operative sector came together today to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of co-operatives opening up their data.
Organised by Co-operative News, Open Data Manchester and Co-operatives UK, the seminar's aim, held at the Co-operative Insurance Tower, Manchester, was to look at creating an open data standard for the co-operative sector.
Steven Flower, co-founder of Open Data Manchester, opened the meeting by discussing his previous work with local authorities and the International Aid Transparency Initiative involving open data. He said that by opening up the data, staff as well as the public will start sharing and using the information and there are many unexpected outcomes.
Kate Pickering, Innovation Programme Leader at Co-operatives UK, said that data is currently being used in three ways in the co-op sector: the Economy, a document produced each year on the co-operative economy, the Global News Hub from Co-operative Press and the new Co-operate mobile application, which is going to be launched soon, where people can find co-ops wherever they are in the country.
Kate explained that the process for this needed to be cleansed and asked, if it was what could be done with the information? She passed the discussion onto guest speaker Chris Taggart, from OpenCorporates, who has a strong background in making more company data open.
He explained the pros of opening up data in the corporate and co-operative sector, and talked about the ways of creating money from the venture. OpenCorporates is an open data company which lists information on over 43m companies that is sourced from public repositries and free to use.
He said: “It’s all about data these days — it’s incredibly powerful, but only if you have access to it.”
He went on to say that many big corporations are in better situations than local authorities because they are able to access large amounts of private, expensive data, whereas many Governments have large amounts of data that they can’t use since it is not easily accessible.
Chris explained that co-operatives can open their data to show how co-operatives are different to other companies and how they set themselves apart from other entities.
The session was followed by people sharing their ideas about why open data was a good idea for co-ops, what could be done about it and how they could go about it.
Thoughts from attendees included: it would help to engage members, they would be leading from the front and it would help to create a centralised database.
Some of the other members who attended were from: Co-operatives UK, Manchester Digital Development Agency, Wigan+ and Software.coop.