Meet James....

I’ve never written a blog about myself before but here goes… Hello, I’m James, and I’m a new volunteer excited to get started with New Union! In my work as a Volunteer Open Data & Communities Campaign Officer (put that on a business card) I will be exploring the current state of local gov released open data uptake, specifically the uptake of gov led digitisation projects.

I’ll be looking into the frustrations, success stories, best practice and lessons learned across a range of projects, and exploring local gov needs and ideas with regards to improving uptake. To deliver this information I will be writing blogs and running interviews (maybe even podcasts if I’m feeling fancy) with extremely important and/or interesting people from across the world. This will hopefully include a varied range of people, from members of government delivering projects, to those actually using the data. There might even be some workshops during a certain week in July but for now that’s all highly confidential.

All of this work will be in tandem with the release of the brand new #GovDataLabs publication, which you can read here.

If you’d like to know little more about me: The year was 1999. It was a dark and stormy February Friday night in Stockport… I probably don’t need to start there. As the eldest of 6 growing up on the mean (POLAR4 Quintile 5) streets of Marple I decided that the only way that I wasn’t going to end up in a life of crime was to go to University. I chose to go to Leeds- not too far from home but far enough that It isn’t weird that I don’t like Oasis.

My course of choice was Medical Science, I’d always quite enjoyed biology but perhaps more importantly I was good at it. After toiling away for 2 whole years I opted to do a placement in my third year- a year away from the academic rigamarole of referencing and deadlines to join the joyous 9 to 5 workforce. I sent an application, received an offer, and all of a sudden I was employed as a data science trainee NHS Digital.

It was in this year that I started to learn more about data, data management, data governance, data analysis, and I loved it. I was placed with the Primary Care Domain team, who were responsible for -you guessed it- primary care data. Over the course of the year I helped out with many different publications, but my two babies were the ‘Dementia diagnosis’ and ‘Patient online management information’ (try saying that 3 times) publications.

Now most of the work done at NHSD is essentially to release open data; the primary care team alone has approximately 5 monthly publications with a smattering of quarterly and annual ones too. But so few people seem to know that it exists, and that was definitely a source of frustration. FOI after FOI would roll into our mailbox, from researchers, charities, and members of the public and each time all we’d have to do was direct them to one of our many publicly available datasets.

It was here that I became interested in issues related to uptake of this kind of data. I’m now in the final year of my degree, still working part-time with NHSD, and excited to get going with this volunteering.