Monday 21 Feb 2011 saw the launch of DataGM, the Greater Manchester Datastore, a partnership between FutureEverything and Trafford Council in Greater Manchester, that developed out of FutureEverything’s Open Data Cities innovation lab.

The move to open up publicly held datasets is gaining momentum across the globe, and has been led by cities such as Vancouver. Open Data is a gateway to a data-based and digital society, it adds layers of accessibility to a huge amount of public information, on everything from the location of buses to census data. Open Data enables citizens to have meaningful interaction with the information that surrounds them.

It can spark an innovation ecology, as people are able to build applications and services and create value (social and economic) by using the data. It both leads to cost savings and enables greater transparency in government, and can help to reengage a sceptical populace with the democratic decision making process through evidence-based policy decisions. Open Data is about collaboration and co-production where the ability to aggregate and disseminate information through the internet by individuals is a key enabling technology.

The embryonic idea behind Open Data Cities – How would cities evolve if all data was open? – emerged during FutureEverything’s festival in May 2009. From an early stage, we saw there were huge opportunities. The emergence of the Greater Manchester City Region, and associated structural reforms, created a unique opportunity for the development of Open Data practice, and raised the potential for Greater Manchester to become a leader in city data led service and application innovation.

Open Data had the potential to make Greater Manchester more equitable through equal data access but this would depend on people having the tools and the ability to act. In November 2009 FutureEverything was funded by the Manchester Innovation Innovation Fund (NESTA, Manchester Council, NWDA) to establish a sustainable Open Data Innovation (ODI) ecology in Greater Manchester. FutureEverything operated from a neutral position outside local government, whereas Open Data development has been led in most cities by the Mayor’s office. This was a process of disruptive innovation that was both agile and pragmatic.

Operating on three levels, advocacy with the executive, knowledge exchange with data holders and managers, and community development with coders and independent software developers. Outcomes were the launch of DataGM, involving collaboration across all 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester and Open Data Manchester an open data community, which meets regularly, has an active web presence, and that has created applications profiled in the national press.

The Open Data Cities work continues in Manchester with the continuing support of the Open Data Manchester community, thematic hackdays in association with MDDA, advocacy across all sectors, programming Open Data within the FutureEverything conference and festival and through the FutureEverything Data Literacy programme. Champions of the Open Data Cities project include Theresa Grant (Trafford Council), Emer Coleman (London Datastore), David Eaves (Vancouver’s Open Data initiative), David Hytch (TfGM), Chris Osborne (ITO World), and Victoria Moody and Phil Welch of Trafford Council who have worked alongside FutureEverything on DataGM.

Open Data Cities / DataGM was nominated for a Big Chip Award 2011 and a UK Public Sector Digital Awards 2011.