At the hack day back in June, I formed the winning team with Shaun Forde from Homeless Link and Dan Blundell, a software developer from Northampton. On the day, we built an API which allows access to Homeless Link’s outreach services for a particular location, by combining their data with other reference datasets from Ordnance Survey, ONS and the DCLG. I wrote up a full account of the day on my blog.
Since the event, I’ve kept in touch with the other team members, and we’ve been exploring how we could build on what was achieved on the day. A key factor for moving this project forward is geting conceptual buy-in, from the relevant stakeholders at Homeless Link itself, that releasing some of their information in an open form is a good idea, and establishing some licensing-terms. This would give us the green flag to continue work on the API and eventually deploy it publicly.
We showed on the day that by combining a charity’s closed data with existing geographic open data sets, the relevant information could be more easily found, and more efficiently and effectively (re)used. Perhaps we should focus on the bigger picture of opening up existing (and new) geographic datasets for use by charities by working on a tool-chain to make this easier for the normal software developer – i.e. not a hardcore geography or data nerd!
I’m getting involved with another hack day along these lines (details soon), with the hope of coaxing out what would be helpful to charities and voluntary organisations in this regard, as well as other software developers. But a hack day is only the beginning: embarking on this kind of project is a serious undertaking and would need support and funding. If anyone has ideas or contacts for pursuing this, then I’d love to hear them.