Part of being a Sociable Organisation must be about sharing in an open and transparent way with others. Data is something we at the council have in abundance and with the right context it could be of significant value to others. Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. This means that we make the data sets we have available, via the internet, which can then be consumed by applications developed by third parties to create new solutions and value.
For example, our library book stock data that includes the ISBN number to identify books could be used by a third party to link to information from Amazon and display the information Amazon provides on books (photo’s, descriptions, user reviews) next to our books and their location. The value of this could be to attract more people to the libraries, it provides better information in a modern format to the public and is something that the library service would not have to keep up to date. Wow!
Other random examples – opening or show times or bookings, river levels, attendance at schools, CO2 emissions, food standards at restaurants, cycle routes, procurement data.
Government’s approach has been to focus on the transparency agenda and in Leeds all we have done so far is provide, as per government dictate, lists of financial transactions over £500. However, there are significant opportunities here… how many Freedom of Information (FOI) requests do we have and what is the cost of providing the information for these. The analysis of these, especially in terms of repeat requests, could inform us on what other data sets we could be making available online through open data and simply point people to that.
There are also open data communities within the city who are keen to exploit and use our data. However, these are diverse communities and have different goals; they want specific data to a specific level of quality for their own individual needs or purpose. We have been involved in numerous hack days where some of these requests come up. The critical thing we have learned about open data consumers and people who use social media as a whole is that they do it for a specific purpose to them. i.e. if you cannot link to a person’s purpose for using or consuming they are generally not interested.
There are numerous standards and approaches that we can follow to get the data out there e.g. http://opendefinition.org/licenses , http://opendatacommons.org/guide/ and we can use sites like http://data.gov.uk/about-us to make it available.
The purpose of Data.gov.uk is to increase public access to high value datasets generated by government as a whole. We have been involved in the specification and build of data.gov.uk and are also debating, at a National level, a code of practice on local government transparency being mandated. Data.gov.uk is also a source of inspiration in terms of the data sets provided by others.
Limited progress has been made in the council so far primarily down to time, capacity and understanding and with so many other priorities. However, now that the new web site has been delivered, it may be time for services to make some of their “key” data available.
What data might we have that you would be interested in?
And did you know that April 22-28 is Big Data Week. Some events in Leeds at this link
Chief information Officer
Leeds City Council