Brussels was alive last week with data workshops, meetings and conferences building up to the Digital Agenda Assembly on June 21-22. Among them:
Each of these meetings provided high quality data with useful stories that demonstrate, as Andrew Leimdorfer and Olivier Thereaux of BBC News Interactive and Graphics suggested, that data is finally being treated like a first class citizen.

Their presentation, “How open data is redefining and reaffirming the roles of the journalist, audience and publisher,” was one of the the highlights of the meeting. Their slides are available in PDF and they can be reached at @leimdorfer and @olivierthereaux.

Their example of data journalism was a story, Public Sector pay: The numbers, that the BBC published Sept. 20, 2010, which discovered that more than 9,000 public sector employees are earning a higher wage than the prime minister, who had previously questioned pay levels in top jobs.

Their work used six tabs to present the information, in ways that made the data easy to understand and easy to access. The tabs were labeled: The story, The figures, Explore the data (including download the full data-7.7 MB), Analysis: NHS, Analysis: Education. Methodology, and Your comments. Imagine something like this in the US from!

I was able to download and reproduce most of their results with a few exceptions as noted above, using my own set of tools, which is exactly what one would expect, but which often fails to happen using a variety of U.S. government data sets.

The highlight of the second meeting was the use of NIEM in Pharmaceutical Drug Monitoring for law enforcement in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Before the government launched the National Information Exchange Model, there was a large gap in interstate reporting. As abuse and diversion escalate, law enforcement and health practitioners need a standardized, scalable solution to share patient drug history.

The Standard NIEM Prescription Monitoring Program Information Exchange assists prescribers, health agencies, and law enforcement in identifying potential abuse and diversion. Advances in NIEM tools were reported recently by David Webber so community practitioners of NIEM have relevant, adoptable, and adaptable tools that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of NIEM lifecycle processes.

The third meeting was to do work like the US Federal Mobile Strategy. Fixed broadband penetration at EU Level from 2004-2012 has increased more than five fold. These data come from the 2nd Digital Assembly, which was a real surprise in that it actually provided data that I could readily use. I created a dashboard that integrated their five data sets, each with multiple data sets within them, and tried to make “data a first class citizen.” One can select country to see the indicator values and country and/or program acronym to see individual project details.

Finally, the real “data as a first class citizen” comes from the recent BBC Eurozone crisis: Deficit, GDP, Unemployment, and Debt which provides country-level data from EuroStat for:
  • Government annual surplus or deficit
  • Annual GDP growth – percentage change from previous year
  • Unemployment rate
  • Government debt as a proportion of GDP
The plot shows the following dramatic results:
  • National public debt exceeded 60% in 2009 when it was not to exceed 60% under the Maastricht Treaty
  • Unemployment reached 10% in 2010
  • The Deficit limit under the Maastricht Treaty of 3% has been exceeded the entire 1999-2011 period
Certainly these storm warnings for Europe and the possible sequestration of funds and financial cliff of the debt ceiling for the U.S. bode ill for the citizens of the world.