A Week at The Open Data Institute: My Reflections

I was privileged to spend a week at The Open Data Institute (ODI) in London where I participated in the Open Data in Practice training program.  Throughout the past few years, I’ve been an active open data practitioner and researcher and I’ve been mainly depending on self-learning and my communications with the open data community around the world,  so I signed up for this training program  to gain deeper and wider understanding of the topic and it’s most recent development from such a leading institute.

The program was well structured with a great balance between the theory and  hands-on practice. Throughout the five days, we covered various aspects of the topic including the basic definitions, legal aspects and data licensing, data processing and visualization and other topics.

Thanks to his deep understanding and experience, the lead instructor Dr. David Tarran did an excellent job and was able with a great support from Kathryn Corrick  to keep the class interactive and dynamic.

Group work during the course

During the course

In addition to the course topics and instructors, one interesting and important feature was the group of participants in the room. The group had a very good level of diversity in terms of level of experience, business and technology background and the countries in which we practice open data. This was very important indeed, we had long and interesting discussions about how open data is perceived and tackled in different parts of the world such as UK, France, US, Russia, Taiwan and the Middle East and this was very valuable for me.  Through my startup Exantium , I’m advising and working with government organizations across the Arab region to help them design a suitable approach to tackle open data in their local context, such cross-border discussions help me add more perspectives and enrich my ability to design different approaches to different countries.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only “entrepreneur” in the room! The training was an opportunity to meet  my friend Kat Borlongan who – just like me – has set up her startup (Five By Five) in France around the idea of open data and we had very interesting discussions on open data from the entrepreneurs point of views. I find it very important for the success of open data movement in any country to have a dynamic entrepreneurship community.

Speaking of startups and to make the program even more practical and interesting, a half-day was dedicated to some innovative data-driven startups incubated at the institute. So we had good time listening to presentations by the founders of  Mastodonc , Carbon Culture and Open Corporates and engaging in fruitful discussions with them.

And of course, I can’t forget my aha moment or the art tour! When Gavin Starks (CEO) took us in a walk throughout the institute to show us the  the amazing data-driven art works showed at the institute.  These are the winning works of the the first Data as Culture  commission.

The SKOR Codex -

The SKOR Codex a shown at the ODI

I’m really glad that I made it to the ODI and the training course, and definitely recommend it to other passionate open data practitioners. Thanks again for the ODI team and looking forward to be there again!


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