Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Business Rates Reform - Easy as Pie and (data) Mash(up)

Business Rates - not exactly a sexy topic but as highlighted by this BBC News article, it's something of huge importance to the UK economy and many businesses both old and new trying to grow in a world of online retailers and a slowly recovering economy.

As detailed helpfully on the gov.uk site, business rates are basically the non-residential equivalent of Council Tax. Premises are taxed annually to pay for services like rubbish collection, street lights and so on.

While some types of property are exempt, the rates affect offices and shops with some types of organisations and areas subject to various forms of discounts. Complicated!

Now, with rates calculated by the Valuation Office Agency (in England & Wales at least) based upon the value of the property (similar to the Council Tax banding process with the occasional re-assessment) and a multiplier set by central Government (linked to inflation); there are inevitably going to be some businesses get better value for money than others. So what are the problems and how could we solve them?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Guest blog for Locatable - the East London Property Market

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll probably know that I live in East London and have a passing interest in Open Data(!).

After getting to know the guys at Locatable during my visits to the Open Data Institute and Open Government Partnership conference, they asked me to write a guest blog on my personal experience of the property market in East London.

The result of this is here and as always reflects my personal opinions (based upon some basic evidence) and in no way reflects upon the views of Locatable or my employer.

Anyway, I hope it's interesting! While you're there, take a good look at Locatable as this company represents all that is good about open data and owning your information.

Locatable

Friday, 17 January 2014

Seeing data through all the numbers

Well 2013 is over and 2014 is upon us. What does it mean? What are the trends going to be this year?

I'm not going to join in that game but I am going to spend a little time talking about something that's been on my mind for a while, namely Data Visualisation. This is the term used to describe graphics that communicate facts and figures.

These are used by a variety of "data people" from finance departments to marketing managers, journalists and beyond. This article will look at a few of the common tools and good examples to see how data visualisation is being used to change the way data is used to bring value to businesses and people.

Wordle: Data Is A Product
A wordle of this blog

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Well it's been a while.. What's changed?

As the title indicates, it's been far too long since I last wrote a post. Terrible I know.

A lot has changed since my last post. I've moved to a new role responsible for B2B Marketing products. My focus is now very much on helping SMEs grow and cut the risks associated with this.

This lends itself superbly to the aims of the Open Data movement which is reaching a major milestone this week.

On Tuesday 29th October, the Open Data Institute held their first annual summit to celebrate the first 12 months of this superb organisation. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but followed the event closely on Twitter using the tag #ODIsummit.

The major announcement made was the formation of 13 global 'nodes' to help further the cause and bring the collaborative way of working between data owners, start-ups and society to a wider audience. These new nodes include two national trials in the USA & Canada, eight regional/city nodes in Dubai, Chicago, North Carolina, Paris, Trento, Manchester, Brighton and Leeds. The final 3 nodes are 'communication' nodes in Gothenburg, Moscow & Buenos Aires.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The ODUG Push Continues - We need your help!

Hi all,

As regular readers will know, I have a hobby: Open Data.

As a member of the Open Data User Group I work with a like-minded community to gather requests and produce business cases to encourage public bodies to release more of their data to benefit UK PLC and society.

So far, we've had some successes and have also published our first tranche of business cases for datasets such as the VAT Register, river centre lines and historic Met Office observations. These can all be found here and I'd encourage you to comment on them to add your support and further evidence to get this data made available to everyone, for free.

Most important of all, we are pushing the UK Government to make available an Open Address Register for the UK. Currently, a number of files exist which are managed and licensed commercially by the likes of the Royal Mail and Ordnance Survey. If you know anything about my day job at Experian QAS, you'll also know that I have an intimate knowledge of a number of these datasets. I'm not proud of that fact.

This is really important. An accurate register of addresses and locations needs to be held by the public for the benefit of all. We are at serious risk of at least one of the core reference files available today falling into private hands.


Addresses are crucial to our lives. Whether it be delivering a curry, getting a bank account or asking for an ambulance; your address and postcode are very, very important. With the current license restrictions on the data preventing many organisations and individuals from re-using it (with the cost of some data being out of reach for all but the largest corporations), the state of play in the UK is not good when compared to some of our European neighbours.

If having such important data in private hands (under an expensive, restrictive license) is not a concern for you, stop reading now. If this is a concern for you as a business or an individual (remember, your taxes pay to create and manage this data); then please visit this link to help the Open Data User Group get your data where it should be - in your hands.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Shameless self promotion..

Well I've officially missed the 'window' to say Happy New Year! So instead, I'll say Hello.

After a long and interesting Christmas break, I'm back and focussing on all things data. The first thing on my list this year is curating the fantastic Product Tank (www.producttank.com), which this month is all about data (well it would be wouldn't it!). Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, it's nice to see that 250 other product managers (plus a growing waiting list) are super excited to hear from the likes of Duncan Ross (@duncan3ross), Heather Savory (@saturnsa4) and Prof Nigel Shadbolt (@nigel_shadbolt). It promises to be a fantastic event on the 23rd in Old Street. For more information, visit the website above.

Also on my January 'hit list' is the potential release of the UK VAT register as Open data. If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know all about my work with the Open Data User Group. If you would like to support the case for more Open data, visit www.data.gov.uk/odug and add your comments to any of our existing data requests / business cases or of course add a new request that you'd like us to look at.

I'll blog again soon on Product Tank and what I'm sure will be the best event yet.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Open Data Institute "Opens" for business

On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to attend the official launch of the Open Data Institute (ODI) at their HQ in Shoreditch, London.

For the uninitiated, the ODI has been championed by founder of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and eminent data scientist Prof. Nigel Shadbolt with the aim to create a world-leading centre of open innovation for government, academics and businesses of all sizes.

With support from the UK government of £10 million over 5 years, the ODI have wasted no time in recruiting a cracking leadership team including the founder of green supply chain pioneers AMEE (Gavin Starks) and my Open Data User Group colleague Jeni Tennison.

The ODI have a few simple aims which can be summarised as:

- Creating education programmes to train the next generation of data scientists.
- Assist and advise the public sector on the best ways to release and use open data.
- Work with small & large businesses to improve skills, foster innovation and boost economic gain in the field of open data.

The event itself was attended by a large number of the people who have been involved in the formation of the institute including members of the Technology Strategy Board, various government departments, most of the Open Data User Group and businesses like Deloitte (launching their research into the value of "open").

Speeches were given by Francis Maude MP (again reiterating his views that much like coal or iron, data is the raw material of a new industrial revolution), David Willetts MP (Minister from BIS), Prof Shadbolt, Gavin Starks and (via video), Sir Tim.

It was also fantastic to hear that the ODI had secured its first tranche of private funding ($750k from Omidyar), a first commercial deal for one of the start-ups being mentored at the Institute and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the World Bank to gather evidence on the benefit of open data globally.

What was most encouraging was the continued support from Mr Maude who clearly recognises the opportunity offered by taking a calculated risk in making the UK one of the most transparent countries in the world. If this can be backed up with more releases of data from the public sector (as being championed by the ODUG), then the future for the ODI is rosy.

The most pressing challenges are obviously for the ODI to secure more funding. This is where big business must get involved and realise that being close to this growing industry is a huge advantage over competitors who choose not to take this opportunity. For the government, more data must be made available that matches the requirements of businesses, society and public sector bodies. With the ODUG already working on business cases with the Data Strategy Board and other government bodies, progress could be made very quickly.

The message is clear: open data is a growing industry with supporters in all sectors around the world. We've reached a tipping point; if data is not released or if businesses do not invest, the UK will not be able to reap the rewards of our early leadership. The time to act is now.