UK open data: some things that happened (and a few that didn’t) in 2015

UK open data: some things that happened (and a few that didn’t) in 2015

Post: 3 January 2016

This post doesn’t have any thesis, it’s just a chronology of some highlights and lowlights in UK open data over the past twelve months …


The World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer scored the UK Government’s open data programme as the best in the world.

Open Addresses UK launched as a start-up to build an Open National Address Dataset.

Land Registry admitted its house price data might not be completely open.

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy said Hansard and the register of MPs’ interests should be made available as open data by the end of 2015. (Check for progress.)

In Shepton Mallet a 12-year-old boy was blamed for a 40% increase in local crime.


Ordnance Survey replaced its OS OpenData Licence with the Open Government Licence and released its Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) for open re-use.

The Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI) was abolished.

The Open Data Institute (ODI) got some more public funding.

Defra launched an Open Data Maturity Model.

The House of Commons Library and the UK Statistics Authority both

contradicted Government claims about the level of funding for flood defence. Defra agreed to publish official statistics.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, a leading proponent of the UK open data and transparency agenda, announced he would step down as an MP.



Ordnance Survey released a range of new open data products. The Environment Agency launched new flood data APIs.

The Charity Commission belatedly released a new search tool for the Register of Charities, but failed to publish bulk data in a compliant open data format.

A report from the Transport Systems Catapult identified “obvious gaps” in the range of transport-related open data currently available.

Heather Savory, previously chair of the Open Data User Group, was appointed as a Director General at ONS.

Mike Bracken was announced as the UK’s first Chief Data Officer.


Ordnance Survey became a GovCo at the start of the new financial year, raising doubts about the long-term prognosis for OS OpenData.

Islamist hackers defaced Defra’s air quality data website.



Following a Court of Appeal ruling, IPSA conceded that MPs’ original expenses receipts should be published.

ODI lost the Colonies.


Companies House launched a new search service to provide free access to millions of company records.

Cabinet Office’s failure to publish recent spending data began to get an increasing amount of attention.

Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition demanding the Government release data on benefit-related deaths.

Defra launched #OpenDefra, an ambitious plan to release 8,000 open datasets within a year.

The Open Data User Group refused to go quietly.


The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 came into force.

The new http://Data.Parliament.UK/ launched in beta. Support for bulk data was sadly lacking.

Environment Agency announced that all its charged-for datasets would be open data by 2018.

Government convened an “independent” Commission to review Freedom of Information. Cabinet Office attempts to spin open data as an alternative to FOI were widely ridiculed.

Open Addresses UK went into “hibernation”.

HMRC consulted on plans to stop publishing national statistics on distribution of personal wealth.


Police forces in England and Wales began to publish detailed stop and search data.

Defra released strategic noise mapping data.

Ordnance Survey finally admitted cartography is just colouring for adults.

The PM forgot to check EA’s bathing water data, and went surfing in water polluted with diluted sewerage.

Mike Bracken resigned.


Environment Agency released 11 terabytes of open LiDAR data for England.

ONS released experimental consumer price research indices based on web-scraped data.

A Private Eye map of properties owned by offshore companies highlighted the absence of open data on property ownership in the UK.

GeoLytix added the final chains to its excellent Open Supermarkets dataset.

MPs slated DCLG for failing to keep records on homes built on sold-off public land.

DCLG published the English indices of deprivation 2015.

Paul Maltby was appointed Director of Data at GDS. (Not to be confused with Chief Data Officer. That post’s still vacant.)


Nothing much happened in October. Have some Smarties.



Wales joined England with a release of open #LiDAR data.

Northern Ireland launched an open data portal. So far the range of open datasets is limited, but for the first time we now have open administrative boundaries for the whole of the UK.

Coal Authority set its face against the open data agenda. There’s always one, isn’t there?


After two years on top, the UK dropped to second place (behind Taiwan) in Open Knowledge’s Global Open Data Index. Cabinet Office was characteristically gracious.

Defra released bulk downloads of air quality data.

Image credits: cropped version of open data (scrabble) by Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0), and Open data Smarties art by Auregann (CC BY-SA 3.0).