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Open and shared data saves lives
Monday, 25th June 2012
Not all data can be truly open as there are privacy issues. But making data more sharable, such as health records, could save lives. Efforts on this front were featured at a recent World Bank event focused on free and open source geographic information systems and mapping tools that will strengthen disaster risk reduction, humanitarian relief and sustainable development.
The World Bank invited around 70 organisations, around 200 experts, to a half day workshop in May. The agenda focused on free and open source geographic information systems and mapping tools that will strengthen disaster risk reduction, humanitarian relief and sustainable development.
Mapping projects such as Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) participated in the workshop. HOT, citizen and community created open data, which fills in the gaps of base map data in order to respond to natural disasters and emergencies. This has already been effectively used in Haiti earthquake, refugee mapping in Africa and in the Indonesian floods.
A technology, not showcased at the World Bank workshop, grabbed some recent headlines in disaster tracking. An everyday home technology kit, the broadband router, has been enhanced by a university student to ‘ping’ thousands of addresses to check whether buildings are still standing. The code is set to be openly released soon and could be further developed for mobile phone networks.
Maps and asset mapping have got the power, and it is not just at a global level we see this. A small regional healthcare project I have been working has at its nub open mapping assets and engine to make them more findable. The reason behind is quite simple: improving health outcomes.
Not all data can be truly open as there are privacy issues. But making data more sharable, such as health records, could save lives.
According to Reuters the lack of sharable data around patient prescriptions and overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the US. The Obama administration is now launching a pilot programme to make it easier for doctors, pharmacists and emergency departments to access patient prescription records.
At present information is collected from pharmacies and health practitioners but the data collected is rarely used as it is difficult to navigate and put into use. A pilot site in Indiana will focus on emergency department access to patient records. In the Ohio pilot test new drug risk indicator and impact on decision making will be tested.
Open and sharable data sounds like common sense. However regulatory and government (global) power needs to be a driving force in support, uptake and implementation.
By Joanna Ptolomey
Joanna is a freelance information consultant and analyst. She started her career in information as a clinical librarian in the NHS before moving to global consultancy group DTZ. Prior to working in the information sector Joanna was a project planning engineer in the construction industry for 10 years.
She hopes to help people use information for assessing risk, making decisions and in governance. She is particularly interested in inequalities issues such as accessibility, information literacy and the information divide especially in the healthcare sector. She is the author of a chapter 'Digital divide and accessibility' in Government Information Management in the 21st Century. She is also the author of the book Taking charge of your career: a guide for library and information professionals.
You can follow Joanna on Twitter.
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