Lisa McElherron said she was thrilled to launch the Detail Data project. NICVA had been keen (1) to better tell the stories of the sector they represent; (2) to forge better links into the media to tell those stories; and (3) to harness the thirst for public data and to ultimately deliver better outcomes for communities and families and Northern Ireland as a whole.
As well as working with voluntary and community groups to request, analyse and tell the stories of local data, organisations can submit their own data to the Detail Data’s portal, making useful information available more widely and at the same time boosting the sector’s transparency.
Project coordinator Andrea Thornbury explained that since “data doesn’t turn into knowledge magically” formal training will be offered to the sector through the Open Data Institute along with lunchtime masterclasses.
A help desk will support NICVA organisations seeking to utilise open data.
The Detail’s deputy editor Kathryn Torney’s explained that “data journalism is high quality journalism that just happens to have numbers at the fore”. A minimum of 30 data journalism articles will be published over the course of the project which receives funding from the Big Lottery Fund. The strategy is to bring numbers to life through personal stories and personalisation allowing to zoom in on a particular geography.
Their first article Places Apart: Exposing huge disparities in Northern Ireland’s 11 new councils received widespread coverage in local media.
Unlike England, Northern Ireland’s geospatial data is not freely licensed. During the session there was a consistent call for some mapping data – particularly the ‘shapefiles’ that define small areas like electoral wards – given that the economic benefit would more than offset the marginal revenue DFP/LPS raises through commercial sales.
With Belfast recently announced as an Open Data Institute learning node, there is little excuse for Northern Ireland’s public, private and third sectors not exploiting the enthusiasm behind the initiative to promote data literacy, evidence-based policy-making, widening understanding of local issues and tapping the economic benefits.