Rising to Meet the Open Health Data Challenge

By | March 1, 2014

The Digital Catapult has issued the beta version of their Open Data Health Platform challenging technologists, analysts, visualisers and businesses to show the world what can be done with open health data, and with a planned launch event on March 13th at MediaCityUK, Manchester.

The release includes some nice tips for how developers can use the types of technology that the platform draws on, including a set of “how tos”, which bodes well for making the platform more accessible – especially if it’s followed up by software documentation that more directly relates to the platform itself.

Creating successful collaborations

Through the platform, the Catapult hope to encourage innovation by forming appropriate collaborations, making a selection of datasets available, and encouraging businesses, large, small and emergent to capitalise on the available infrastructure. This is a good way for the Catapult to further its immediate goal of fostering collaboration to commercialise SMEs’ innovative solutions. But its goals are more ambitious than just success in particular collaborative projects.

<a name="nextstep"Setting the Digital Economy Ablaze

The next step, and a key metric by which the Catapult will evaluate its success, will be the extent to which it can set the Digital Economy ablaze – through massive re-use of its project outputs. Successful collaboration is one thing, but there is more to starting a blaze than setting firelighters – you also need to make sure it spreads, and it may be that the “firelighter” partners in its collaborations, although very technically competent, may not always know what’s needed to make releases attractive to or compatible with the needs and constraints of commercial developers.

So to meet the goal of uptake hundred of times, it may be that the Catapult has eventually to look past the innovator community (“innovators” as a term being likely to apply more to those who uptake first), and to what the expectations of the wider software development community might be of a software deliverable, and how to “sell” it to them.

In its favour in this respect, the Catapult is rapidly expanding, with three times the staff than it had a few months ago – and rising – including a number of software developers whose backgrounds could enrich the Catapult’s experience base of what it means to work within an SME on the whole cycle of commercial development.

I look forward to future developments.