Mapping data ecosystems

Fri Mar 23, 2018
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In this guide, we introduce a tool for documenting and mapping data ecosystems.

In this guide, we introduce a tool for documenting and mapping data ecosystems. We have provided guidelines for how to do this by yourself, or in a workshop setting. 

We welcome feedback on this methodology, how it can be used, examples of its use in different contexts, and ways in which we can improve it in the future.

When we started to explore how open data could be used to deliver public services through our research and development programme, we knew we needed a means of capturing the variety of ways that people and organisations are collaborating with data, in order to help us clearly communicate that variety more widely.

To help us achieve that we have drawn on ideas from rich picturing, systems thinking and value network analysis to develop an approach for mapping data ecosystems. By creating a visual map that illustrates how data is being accessed, used and shared by a variety of organisations, we have found it is easier to explain the ecosystems that exist around products and services.

We have tested this tool in a variety of projects and are already finding it a useful approach. Data ecosystem maps can help to identify the data stewards responsible for managing and ensuring access to a dataset, the different types of data users and the relationships between them. We think the approach can help to communicate where and how the use of open data creates value.

We have started using this tool in our own projects, but we are also keen to see how it can be applied in new projects and contexts. For example, it might be a useful way not only to explore existing data ecosystems, but also to map out new ecosystems that might be created through the publication of additional data. We are also interested in whether the tool might need to be adapted when used in different contexts, eg based on language, culture and location.

Let us know your thoughts by commenting on this document or contacting Josh D’Addario ([email protected]).