UK: COVID-19 open data hackathon

The event last week (March 26) attracted over 50 participants across the spectrum of public and private sector organisations from local authorities, universities and NHS trusts to clinical commissioning groups and charities like the British Red Cross.


The participants expressed a collective appetite for transparent localised data so that health, government and community services could get a more accurate picture of cities like Leeds, for example. They agreed that sharing standardised integrated data sets from a specific city would enable them to scale up the data for other towns, cities and regions.  


Paul Connell, Founder of ODI Leeds emphasised the benefits of this approach: “The ‘Open Data Saves Lives’ initiative can bring people together to respond to the situation we’re all facing. We want to encourage and empower people to work ‘in the open’, to talk about your work, to ask for help, to share your success on our open doc. We can then link up the incredible work being done, remove barriers and speed up the response. “

The unprecedented, frontline challenge for NHS trusts was also outlined by Richard Ewins, director of product development at Beautiful Information.

“Trusts are in urgent need of COVID-19 metrics and many informatics teams are now reporting on key areas. The challenge is to try and standardise and validate reporting and analytics whilst the whole health system is under immense and unprecedented clinical pressure. Every service, from A&E to pathology and pharmacy are working to their capacity.”

Many other participants had also started some form of COVID-19 project, be it for community and voluntary services or academic research. The group acknowledged that whilst all work was valuable, the opportunity with an open hackathon was to identify possible duplication and pool effort. This could then result in some sub-groups forming and concentrating expertise on defined areas like the impact on older people or other vulnerable groups.

Alistair Bullward, open data lead at NHS Digital offered support from the centre: “As a central player in NHS Data, NHS Digital are keen to play their part with the open data community to find innovative solutions to support COVID-19 work”.

And the Open Data Institute concluded there should be no gatekeepers to innovation at a time of crisis. The agreed next step is to run an open weekly online session and share ideas and resources on a living document. For those wishing to join please visit this blogpost.




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