The Fifth Elephant 2013

An Event on Big Data and Cloud Computing

Tim Davies


Infrastructures and eco-systems for open data

Submitted May 24, 2013

This talk / workshop will provide an overview of developments in open data across the globe, and will outline some of the technical and organisational challenges to effectively publishing or making use of open data.

Looking from both the publisher and user perspectives it will ask what the core infrastructures of open data need to include, and how ecosystems of specialised tools and platforms develop around open data.

It will explore critically what this means for the possibility of delivering the democratic benefits of open data, and will look practically at steps open data publishers and users can take to best promote the democratising potential of open data.


Governments, international institutions and other entities across the world are publishing vast quantities of open data. The first part of this talk will outline recent developments in open data across the world, and will discuss the potential of open data as a resource for business, government and civic actors.

Although the promise of open data is that all groups (business, government and citizens) can benefit, implicit and explicit choices about how data is published have a big impact on what can be done with data, and between the publication of ‘raw’ data, and the creation of useful tools, platforms and informations for citizens there can be many steps and tasks to be carried out.

Publishers of data need to choose what they will provide alongside data, and what sorts of infrastructures they will put in place to support data re-use. This might range of APIs and documentation, to online communities and developer outreach. Civic re-users of data need to work out how to bridge the gaps between the open data as it arrives from publishers, and the data as they need it: finding sustainable economic and open models for enriching, improving and making data accessible. Frequently eco-systems of data users may emerge, sharing source code, intermediary platforms, APIs and social interactions, to make sense of data and make it usable.

Using examples from across the world, and drawing particularly on examples from the International Aid Transparency Initiative, this second part of this talk will look both practically and critically at what thinking about open data infrastructures and ecosystems can bring to work on creating, publishing and using open data.

Speaker bio

I work for the World Wide Web Foundation, as a researcher looking at the impacts of web technologies.

I have a humanities and social research background, but also try and work hands-on experience with web technologies, managing the development of a number of open data platforms, and building a series of linked data demonstrators for international development organisations. My PhD work looks at the use of open data, drawing on ideas from infrastructure studies and the emerging field of data studies.


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