Data excavation : news from the DCLG quarry


The views expressed here are mine, and mine alone, and not my employer’s (DCLG) official policy or opinion.

Following today’s exciting announcements in the Open Data White Paper, I wanted to update you my recent work with open data at DCLG.

Despite the lack of posts to my blog since January,  I’ve been pushing forward with open data on two main fronts.

Firstly, I’ve been testing out ways of publishing more data in the full (5 star) LinkedData form.  The result is our proof-of-concept OpenDataCommunities triplestore, with a nice SPARQL endpoint and API for you to enjoy.

I’m really pleased, and proud that this gets a mention in the Open Data White Paper.

You’ll see that the triple store comprises a selection of DCLG’s housing, local government finance and deprivation statistics.  We think we’ve chosen a collection of data that is widely used – particularly by Local Authorities – and ripe for linking together in new and interesting ways; including linking up with related sources over the web.   We are currently trying to test and prove that by working with a small group of local authorities and voluntary organisations.  For me, this is an essential part of gathering evidence to help me scope, plan and cost how to move to routinely releasing all DCLG data in this way.  So, if you are a regular user of DCLG data, and want to find smarter/faster ways to acquire and blend it with other sources, I’d love to hear from you.

We’ve done some neat things with geographic data too.  One example is the new set of identifiers for local authorities of various types in England, with links to other schemes, such as those defining the geographic extent of each authority.  We think this is important because it now enables local authorities to be referenced in terms of the organisation itself, and the geographic areas they serve.  Let’s take Amber Valley as an example.  The new URI – http://opendatacommunities.org/id/district-council/amber-valley – essentially provides information about the council as a public body, or legal entity.  If you follow the link, you’ll see basic information such as the link to the council’s website, area codes defined by the Office for National Statistics, and DCLG’s code for local government financing purposes.  This link also provides connections through to data, from ONS and Ordnance Survey about the geographic area governed by Amber Valley.

The ambition is for local authorities to start adopting these URIs, include them in their own web sites and APIs, and start attaching additional information at source about their organisation – such as “contact us” type information; and details about local councillors and their senior management team.  Again, if you’re based in a local authority and agree this is worth pursuing, then please do get in touch.

The second strand of my work has been on building relatively simple demonstration applications which “show and tell” how open data, served from our triple store, can enable innovative new tools and insights.   The three recent developments are:

1.   The fantastic Local Authority Dashboard

2. My new application showcasing DCLG’s Household Projections Statistics

3. An updated version of my Index of Deprivation Explorer

I’ve also built a landing page for the various apps I’m working on, and will be extending this to APIs and data source’s I’ve used.

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