Interview with Tim Berners-Lee at the Open Data Awards 2015

Interview with Tim Berners-Lee at the Open Data Institute’s Open Data Awards, where the Greater London Authority won one of five prizes. Written for Tech City News and first published here.

The Greater London Authority has won one of five Open Data Awards handed out by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Open Data Institute.

The awards, hosted by Bloomberg, recognise innovation and excellence in open data.

The Greater London Authority topped the Publisher category for opening up more than 600 datasets in 2010 for use to build new tools, something that has become a model for other cities.

The Business Award went to Open Corporates, who are using open data to provide analysis and understanding of how corporations operate.

Mo McRoberts won the Individual Champion Award for encouraging the BBC and others to appreciate the potential that open data can have,  and getting them to open it up.

The Social Impact Award was won by Budget, who are using new methods of communication to get information out to rural areas and improve understanding of how public funds are spent.

The Innovation Award went to the Medicines for Malaria Venture, which has already used open data to create four new drugs to combat this global killer, even creating a new treatment that can be dispersed by water and breast milk.

The organisation has opened up 400 compounds free of charge for others to develop new drugs and only asks users to publish their results.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee said: “These stories, and there were 500 nominations, show that a lot of stuff is happening in open data.

“There are people trying to get the idea of open data through someone in the hierarchy above them who is not aware of all these stories. In the open data community – we need to blow our own trumpet.”

Cofounder of the ODI Sir Nigel Shadbolt added: “We have to get people to understand the economic, social and environmental reasons why data matters and there is so much left to do – this is not a finished job.”

He called on policy-makers to provide data literacy skills in schools.

Asked by Tech City News about the impact that Ed Snowden’s revelations had on the open data movement, Berners-Lee said: “It’s a really important discussion we’ve had and we wouldn’t have had it without him, so we are indebted – but it doesn’t leave us with simple answers.

“It’s a question of building a government with checks and balances in which it didn’t have before.”

On the question of open data and interoperability, Shadbolt said: “It has to be a requirement among services and utilities that it is your data. It’s a land grab for your data too often.”

ODI CEO Gavin Starks highlighted that in Greece, the population is now unable to participate in the digital economy because their bank cards don’t work.

“How should we be treating digital infrastructure?” he asked. “Who owns it?”

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