LinkedGov is a community project to collaboratively clean and make usable data from local authorities and other public bodies.
Before we can do great things with the data (for example, identify spending benchmarks across councils or build iPhone apps comparing bus timetables to train times), we often must rearrange the datasets so that one council’s data can be used with others. Sometimes this process is as simple as converting from PDF to Excel, but often it involves decoding acronyms and abbreviations, matching synonyms, or converting yards into meters. As a combined set of tasks, they can be quite laborious and deter many from making useful things from the data.
We at LinkedGov are creating an online factory, breaking down each of those tasks into a virtual conveyor belt where everyone can help. Are you a local government officer? We’ll have an area with questions for you about your council’s data. Are you a developer? Your section will ask you to help link datasets to each other. Are you a member of the public? We’ll ask you to compare abbreviations from different datasets, or use Google to find the description of a particular programme. We’ll wrap these tasks into a game, so you can compete and bring in your colleagues.
With everyone helping, the enormous mass of public sector data should be cleaned quickly. Not only will it give software developers and companies new resources for building apps, it will also allow us to build a website where anyone can ask simple questions. Local government officers will be able to easily ask questions about their own data, and find information from other councils or parts of the public sector. We are hoping this tool will help everyone in their own work, giving them an insight into their organisation’s own activity and a motivation to help us make the data better.