Jeni Tennison (she/her)

Founder and Executive Director

Jeni is an expert in all things data, from technology, to governance, strategy, and public policy. She is the founder of Connected by data, a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and an Affiliated Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

Jeni was CEO of the Open Data Institute, where she held leadership roles for nine years. There, she developed and directed the ODI’s approach to topics such as open data, data governance, data portability and data institutions, as well as leading research, development and advisory work in sectors ranging from health and climate to agriculture and engineering.

Before joining ODI, Jeni worked as an independent consultant, specialising in open data publishing and consumption. Jeni was the technical architect and lead developer behind legislation.gov.uk and worked on the initial development of data.gov.uk. She has a long-standing interest in open and web standards, served on the W3C’s Technical Architecture Group and co-chaired the W3C’s CSV on the Web Working Group.

Jeni is the co-chair of the Data Governance Working Group at the Global Partnership on AI, and sits on the Boards of Creative Commons, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the Information Law and Policy Centre. She has a PhD in AI and an OBE for services to technology and open data. She loves Lego and board games and is the proud co-creator of the open data board game, Datopolis.

The Post Office scandal has reached the mainstream, thanks to ITV’s dramatisation, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, broadcast earlier this month. The political response to the harms done to sub-postmasters due to problems with the Post Office’s Horizon system has rightly focused on correcting miscarriages of justice and providing compensation to the people affected. But there are other lessons to learn from this scandal: about how technology can go wrong and the implications for how it’s developed and embedded within wider processes; and about the rights we need to bring such errors to light, correct decisions made about us, and hold organisations accountable.

But even as the government congratulates itself on finally acting to compensate victims and quash convictions, its own Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is laying the groundwork for both making similar scandals more likely in the future, and making it even harder for campaigners to achieve justice.

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We are working on a project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to help them understand the ecosystem around their work to develop an insight infrastructure for social and economic inequalities, and how to engage with it.

One of the things that’s been a bit challenging to pin down is how to think about what an “insight infrastructure” actually is or does. Is it just a fancy name for what’s essentially a data portal? Or the long term development of system-wide change? Is it intended to be a set of services that JRF will provide? Or a shared movement they’re building? I’ve been drawing on previous work to provide a couple of ways of thinking about what insight and insight infrastructures actually are.

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Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), announced a new, British, approach to data protection at the October 2022 Conservative Party Conference. It seems the Johnson government’s new direction for data, which culminated in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill introduced in Parliament in July, is to be revised through more consultation, though it appears not a public one.

GDPR isn’t perfect and it would be great if the UK could be bold in changing data protection laws to build on and move beyond GDPR. Unfortunately, the Bill as it stands takes backwards steps rather than confronting future – or even current – challenges. Its focus on simply reducing regulation, especially for small businesses, is misplaced and out of step with the kind of regulation the modern data economy needs.

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Weeknotes are a combination of updates and personal reflection written on a routine basis

Do you collect, use or share data?

We can help you build trust with your customers, clients or citizens

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Do you want data to be used in your community’s interests?

We can help you organise to ensure that data benefits your community

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