The Open Data Institute (ODI) is offering free support services for public authorities, charities, researchers, developers and companies in designing data models and software to respond to the coronavirus crisis.
The scheme is being funded by global philanthropic organisation Luminate, set up by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and is offering help with technology, licensing, anonymisation, ethics and governance.
ODI vice-president and chief strategy officer Jeni Tennison said: "Wherever we look, there is a demand for data to support the response to Covid-19. Data about numbers of tests, cases, and deaths. Data about beds, ventilators and NHS staffing levels. Data about vulnerable people, about volunteers, about supply chains and demand spikes, about impacts on businesses, our environment, our mental health, and lives.
"Data is vital for decision making, but in the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation it is more important than ever. While collecting this data is essential, making the data as open as possible should be the next step to enable more people to make the decisions needed to tackle the virus and its impacts."
Tennison said the ODI wanted to ensure it is using its expertise and knowledge in the best way, and not to add to the plethora of apps already being developed. As a result, the organisation has decided to work on three things:
- Helping people who have data relevant to the coronavirus, Covid-19, and the wider impact the virus is having. This includes assisting them with making the data as open as possible by providing simple guidance on how to do that well, and by working with them on specific projects.
- Participating in existing initiatives such as Newspeak House’s Coronavirus Tech Handbook and GovLab’s repository of Data Collaboratives in Response to Covid-19, and researching the patterns and gaps in how data is being published and used.
- Continuing to explain and advocate for openness and trustworthiness in the response to the coronavirus, with the public, politicians and officials, in coordination with many other groups working towards a world where data works for everyone.
Tennison concluded: "Making data open – by publishing it on the web, in spreadsheets, or without restrictions on its use – is essential, because it means the data can be used quickly and without restrictions by the people who need it most and to the benefit of everyone; whether they are in the health service, local authorities, charities, businesses, research organisations, scientists or acting individually."