The Open Data Cities project is FutureEverything’s longest running project that span out of Futuresonic 2009. Its aim was to turn Greater Manchester into a region where data was used and shared openly and intelligently. There were many reasons for doing this – it was seen as a way that public services could be delivered more effectively in a harsh fiscal climate, and it had the potential to create an environment where people could understand, scrutinise and hold to account those who delivered services on the public’s behalf; this could also have democratic benefits. Finally it was seen that by opening up this ‘undiscovered country’ of data that developers and businesses would start to be able to create new applications and services off the back of the data.
There has been much written about the perceived economic benefit from open data in the UK alone, an influential piece of research stated that it could at £6.5 billion of value to the UK economy. Whether this is actually born out remains to be seen but through the development of the Open Data Manchester community there does seem to be an emerging body of practise. Open Data Manchester members work in the fields of data analytics, international aid data and data journalism to name a few and are developing new ways to understand and navigate the world in which we live. In partnership with FutureEverything and Manchester City Council, the Manchester Hackathon was developed and brought together over 45 developers, coders and designers to see what could be done with the data made available in the Greater Manchester region. In the end 16 teams presented ideas and a few of these are going to be progressed further with the public agencies who supplied the data. The Manchester Hackathon, which took place in November 2012 was the first of its type in Manchester and judging by the talent and enthusiasm for open data, one of the aims of the Open Data Cities project might start to be achieved.