Issue 2: Events, Programme update, and #DefraDataHour launch
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Defra Data Transformation Programme Newsletter

Hello again!

Activity in Defra’s Data Transformation Programme continues to gather pace, and a quick look at the DefraDigital blog is as good a place, as any, to start to find out what’s been going on.

You may notice that we’ve begun to use our full name including ‘Transformation’, which was always there but often dropped, especially in the run-up to the opendefra target last year. The most popular posts on the blog (by shares and reads) are about doing things with data, transforming how Defra operates, and those that recognise that a key part of becoming data-driven is cultural. Data is important. But people are more important. We’ve picked out some highlights from the blog, including video interviews, for you in this issue.

Data transformation is already beginning to happen across Defra, by which we mean that an understanding of data as a valuable asset is becoming embedded in what we do, in things like the language and case studies in the forthcoming 25-Year Environment Plan green paper (watch out for more on this soon).

This time we are trying Mailchimp, but are still arriving at a format we hope works. We want this to be your newsletter, so please do let us know what you want to see, and if you have something data-related you want to tell others about, we can help.

Starting today, Wednesday 1 February at 16:00 we have #DefraDataHour. You can join in the conversation, or follow it even if you don’t have a Twitter account, by using the short link today's topic will be... 'What one thing could Defra do tomorrow that would help you use data better?'

Finally, we have an update this time from the Proof-of Concepts team, who are working on solutions to key Defra policy priorities that we think can be helped by a data-centric approach and will take us one step closer to the vision of a data-driven Defra.

Thanks for reading!

David and Stefan

Events Diary

  • 24–25 February: #AirHack –  A 2-day hackathon-style event tackling the challenge of air quality.
  • 28–30 March: Flood and Coast Conference which draws together key stakeholders from across the flood and coastal erosion risk management community.
  • 30 March: Innovating with Defra Data – A 1-day innovation workshop for anyone and everyone to attend. In particular, we're looking for people who have Defra data-powered projects that they'd like to share and get advice for taking further.
  • 24–25 May: #DefraData Mash-up – We are gearing up for our next Unconference in partnership with the Defra Geo-Conference team. Right now we looking for volunteers to help make the next event as good as the last one. Keep the dates free. We will be providing more detail and tickets in the coming weeks.  

Blog post roundup for January

Blog posts are published on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays

  • Friday 13 January Selling our data
    The Environment Agency’s Paul Wyse tells us how one of his main areas of recent evolution has been learning how to sell, and he’d like to tell you about it.



Why do we need them, and how will they work?

Update from the teams... 

Bovine TB

  • Uses the example of understanding how Bovine TB spreads through animal movement to demonstrate a means to make temporary, analysis-ready copies of sensitive data.

  • This focuses on a specific costly problem for Defra and will result in enhanced Farmer and Vet reports and involves a collaborative team of APHA, IBM and Data Transformation Programme staff.

  • The proof-of-concept is almost ready to demonstrate moving snapshot datasets from a managed data centre to the cloud.

  • The team is currently designing a means to provide a data mart, which provides fast reporting from the data.


Geographical Information 

  • The Data Programme is looking at how geographic data from across Defra can be brought together.

  • The Department holds a huge volume of geospatial datasets, and pulling these into a single location will help integrate with other sources and make them available.

  • In particular, as field workers are equipped with modern tools such as tablets there is a need to allow them to directly access the data that they need, wherever they are.

  • Currently exploring the use of the Rural Payments Agency Land Management System stack


Earth Observation

  • Joint team of JNCC and Data Programme.

  • This PoC is exploring how to commoditise new sources of Earth Observation data (from the ESA satellites Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2)

  • These commodity products could provide a pre-processed standard data source, ready for wider applications across Defra.

  • Project has so far found a method to reliably connect to ESA; download copies of Sentinel satellite data and reliably construct basic images

  • Next step is to explore methods for efficient pre-processing and re-distribution of these very large datasets.

  • There is a separate PoC to the main Earth Observation PoC looking at applications to managing forestry estate, being carrier out in collaboration with the Forestry Commission  

Bye for now

If you have an idea for a blog post or a post ready-to-go, please get in touch.

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