How open data could help the ‘peace walls’ debate in Northern Ireland

Kirsty Styles, October 31, 2017 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

If you’re ever unsure about the power of open data, it’s worth picking up the phone to Northern Voices participant Amy Evans, who works in communications and design at the Open Data Institute pioneer node in Leeds.

She’s one of an enthusiastic band of open data advocates who set about building a Northern space for people to come together to explore its power, inspired by the 2013 launch of The Open Data Institute in London by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt.

“It was created to explore and deliver the potential of open innovation with data at city scale,” the organisation explains. “We work to improve lives, help people and create value.”

Evans has recently got back from a weekend unconference hosted in Belfast, Open Data Camp, where public sector folks, data scientists and analysts, journalists and communications engineers, and more, all got together to talk and do open data.

Attendees are encouraged to help create the agenda at the start – with topics ranging from open data and minecraft, to how open data affects how laws are made.

Evans led a conversation about open data and culture, inspired by the likes of Algorave, who are live coding music experiences across the world.

“I’m interested in where you draw the line – if public art uses open data, at what point is it more of a public information campaign?” she explains.

“What’s exciting about using open data in art is that if it’s live, it’s constantly changing, so it’s never the same piece of art each time you see it.”

Evans was particularly inspired by some of the work being done to engage people in Northern Ireland, using open data, with plans to bring down the ‘peace walls’ that currently segregate different communities in Belfast.

Open Data Northern Ireland is also planning an open call for a set of school-based projects around the use of open data, and if you think that looking at Food Hygiene Rating Schemes data couldn’t possibly save a local council money, well, Belfast just found £350,000 doing just that.

Drawnalism captured proceedings over the course of the weekend, including a look at the ‘state of the nation’ when it comes to Open Data nodes operating around the UK.

Image credit: Drawnalism

ODI Leeds is going from strength to strength, and has just moved offices and relaunched its website. Evans is currently busy putting together a service design workshop for the public sector, happening next week.  

Book Amy to speak at your event

Amy is an enthusiastic expert when it comes to open data and can talk data journalism, open data for social good, data visualisation and much more. Book her today.

Data & research, Startup stories, Leeds