Civil servants called to sign up for government-funded data courses

Civil servants are being offered free data training 'vouchers' as part of the open data initiative.

Staff across local and central government are encouraged to sign up for free data courses at the Tim Berners Lee-founded Open Data Institute (the ODI) and the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN).

The cost of the courses is covered by the £1.5 million funding for open data projects announced in February. Each voucher for a course is worth £250.

Local and central government staff can sign up for one or three-day courses to learn about principles for using data, technical tools as well as license and privacy issues.

Suzanne Ter-Minassian, open data and transparency policy adviser at the Cabinet Office, urged fellow civil servants to get involved. She wrote in a blog post this month: “The scope of open data in the public sector is huge: it affects all sorts of specialisms, from communication to economics, from policy to accounting, ethics and project management. Pretty much anyone that has ever collected, interrogated or used any data, or anyone whose audience cares about data should understand open data and thus, attend this training!”

The first round of the funding supported projects that released data for free, such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has used open source tools and GIS mapping software from Esri to create a single source of statistical data that can be easily accessed by staff and the public.

The training vouchers form the second funding round, and in February the government said that more than 100 training places would be available.

The government’s Open Data User Group (ODUG) is responsible for securing future funding rounds.

The open data agenda was developed in the hope that the developer community will begin to create applications for government and the public to use for free. Data across all departments has never been consistently available or standardised prior to this initiative.

“I am relatively new to the open data agenda, and frankly excited about it. Prior to joining the team, like most people, I had a positive but woolly opinion of it. I knew it meant transparency, democracy, potential economic growth, and easier commuting but had very little idea what it meant in practice or how widely public servants are affected by open data,” Ter-Minassian added.

“I also didn’t understand how applicable open data activities are and how easily public servants across government can (and should) get involved with it. Even if I had, I might not have had the right skills to do anything about it.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) deployed a new release of its API to make it easier for developers to create applications for its statistics, this month.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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