Local authority open data dashboard aims to spark disparity debate

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Data-discovery-dashboard400x228An app to collate “pockets of best practice” around the publication of open data sets for local authorities to add their own data, incorporate data into their own website or software and reduce Freedom of Information requests has gone live.

The demonstration Local Data Discovery dashboarddisplays 426 local authorities’ open data sets via an interactive map of the UK and was developed by open data hobbyist Steve Peters. It aims to provide a “better way in” to local government open data sets, said Peters, building on work already done in this field by disparate organisations.

“Part of what it’s trying to do is to join the dots between what folks are asking for and what councils are doing”, he told Local Digital.

“Data.gov.uk [led by the Transparency Board and Open Data team in the Cabinet Office] is doing good stuff. Separately local government is doing good stuff. There are datasets registered with the Local Government Association’s Open Data service and councils’ own data portal or website. Pockets of best practice are bubbling up. This app should bring it all together”, said Peters.

Aimed at both users and producers of open data, it aims to address which of these channels councils have made their data available on. It also aims to help increase certainty that users are accessing the latest version of a particular dataset.

Peters told Local Digital that while the app is not a “silver bullet”, it highlights the disparity between the kinds of open data available and the way it is presented. “The point is to highlight that there isn’t a consistent approach across councils to show data in the same way”, he said.

Peters’ blog post about the dashboard describes it as “an attempt to spark more debate around how to be smarter at providing, blending and using data from multiple sources about different places and topics of interest”.

The app presents a table and map comprising four key facts about each council: the number of open data sets registered on data.gov.uk; the number of datasets registered with LGA’s Open Data schema service; the number of datasets registered with LGA’s Open Data Inventory service; and the number of FOIs registered with whatdotheyknow.com. Links take users directly to councils’ individual ‘transparency’ pages where data on expenditure, salaries, budgets, revenue from parking and trade union involvement is presented, for example.

“The payback is that you could reduce FOI requests by just presenting the data”, said Peters. The Local Data Discovery dashboard is based partly on the dataset underlying the UK Local Government Open Data Resource map.

Peters invited others to develop the app further. He said that he hopes that someone will now “take on the app and run with it.”


Pictured: Local Data Discovery dashboard | photo courtesy of dclgapps.communities.gov.uk

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