We examine how charities can make use of open data to advance their machine learning and AI projects
For charities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have the capability to extract deeper meaning from data. This can help charities to better understand their supporters and beneficiaries. AI can also help charities innovate in new kinds of directions.
Machine learning development requires big sets of data to learn from, which is why AI projects and open data often go hand in hand.
But what do we mean by open data? The Open Data Institute defines open data as ’data that is made available by organisations, businesses and individuals for anyone to access, use and share’.
This article will look at some of the top sources for open data for charities. These can be blended with charities’ own data as it uses AI to innovate and understand the value of its work.
UK Data Service – Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council the UK Data Service offers free access to 7,000 digital data collections. This covers social, economic and population data, including the UK census and government surveys. It is designed to be used by a wide range of organisations, including charities, foundations, think tanks as well as central and local government bodies.
Office of National Statistics – This is the UK’s largest independent producer of national statistics. It supplies a large variety of datasets, ranging from business, economy and employment to population and societal data.
Public Health England - This governmental health body offers a raft of health data by region and disease type. Data covers areas such as cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease as well as issues such as child and maternal health and dementia. Heath themes such as inequality, drug and alcohol abuse as well as ageing are also covered in the data and analysis tools it offers.
COVID-19 data for charities and funders – Think tank New Philanthropy Capital and charity the Health Foundation have compiled an open data set for charities helping to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This brings together data on age, health and the economy from sources including the Office of National Statistics and Public Health England. The open data set was launched during the outbreak and is set to be of use to charities in the long term, as they assess the wider implications of the outbreak on their beneficiaries.
NHS Digital -NHS Digital has responsibility for standardising, collecting and publishing data and information from across the health and social care system in England. Over a thousand datasets are available on a variety of subjects from care quality through to population health and the outcome of treatments.
Data.gov.uk – This is a portal of data produced by central government, councils and public bodies. The search function includes filtering by subject, including the environment, crime, education, transport and health.
Google Cloud Public Datasets – Google offers access to around 200 public data sets from across a range of sectors and countries. The data sets are hosted by Google’s server-less data warehouse BigQuery and Cloud Storage. Data sets cover diverse issues such as health and cryptocurrency as well as education and crime.
Google Trends - Also on offer through Google is detailed data about how internet users search for information. This is particularly useful for charities looking to take advantage of search engine optimisation (SEO) when publishing content and maximising impact online.
London Datastore - The London Datastore is a free and open data-sharing portal produced by the Greater London Authority (GLA). It includes around 6,000 data sets, from among others Transport for London, Office of National Statistics, London Fire Brigade and the GLA. This offers a wealth of data about life in the capital, covering areas such as employment, transport, environment, housing, health and population stats.
Justice Data Lab – The Ministry of Justice produces regular reports on rehabilitation programmes. The information is provided to help organisations assess the impact of their work on reducing reoffending. This includes England and Wales wide justice data as well as detailed analysis of individual programmes.
Met Office - On the Met Office website, you can find historic UK climate and weather data from long-running stations, some of which go back 100 years. The pages are updated each month to reflect the latest month’s weather across the UK. Environmental charities will find this open data set invaluable.
Ordnance Survey – The UK’s mapping agency offers open data products featuring a range of digital maps of Great Britain for different purposes. This can include information on addresses, postcodes, locations, transport networks, pollution and political boundaries. OS OpenData sets can be accessed online and through DVD orders. This includes OS Open Roads, focusing on the British road network, and OS Open Rivers looking at the country’s waterways.
World Health Organisation - The health body’s data repository is a gateway to the world’s health-related statistics and datasets across 194 countries and can be filtered by country or theme. This includes the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mortality Database and data on birth records.