The Coalition Government have established their vision that opening public data will
- enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account
- reduce the deficit and deliver better value for money in public spending
- realise significant economic benefits by enabling businesses and non-profit organisations to build innovative applications and websites using public data
We are representing this vision with the diagram below:
This diagram shows the vision of government opendata; the way it’s supposed to run. Various parts of government (local, central and NHS, plus all the non-departmental public bodies) publish their datasets, either on their own websites or on data.gov.uk. Developers come along and code neat apps and visualisations to do fun things with the data, and users/citizens are able to be more informed about their government’s activities, more closely connected to the resources in their neighbourhoods, and able to mash up the data with activities in their own lives (or other sectors).
Unfortunately, this process isn’t exactly flowing the way it is meant to. Differences in formatting and, most importantly, undefined codes and values mean that much of the published data can’t be analysed or compared to any other data. This frustrates us.
In order to fix these problems, we have to build a few things:
- A process or mechanism to reformat the problem datasets into something we can work with. We then need to be able to get the data in any format that suits us.
- A site/module by which to crowdsource the missing metadata
- Tools for querying, filtering and searching across all the government datasets (even the ones we haven’t had to tidy) and APIs to release the data to developers
- A web site with a simple question box, to provide basic answers to questions like “How many toilet rolls has my organisation purchased in the past year?” (This part will be primarily aimed at government users, to encourage them to see value in the project and help us with the metadata — but will be open to all.)
The diagram now looks like this:
The things we are building are in green.