Local Government data outreaching to other sectors and markets
Understanding our people and places through better information - Local Government has a wealth of data to be shared with everyone
Local government in England currently comprises over 350 councils and their partners, each charged with delivering over 1500 different and wide-ranging services. Local democracy encourages each organisation to define its own priorities and methods of service delivery such that the electorate can influence and shape the environment and community in which they live.
Traditionally, the datasets that underpin services are collected and held in locally determined formats. This way of working creates a mosaic of systems across the country – inconsistent and unconnected data when web 2.0 developments call for the interconnection of linked data.
During recent assessments, it is clear that there are over 42,000 pieces of information about local government produced annually and reported locally. Much of the data could contribute to social and economic growth if released nationally to common standards, yet much of the data is fragmented, inconsistent and not published in an easily accessible form.
In recent years, the Local Government Association (LGA) and its technical partners have been working to provide standards and systems for the sector to encourage better data accessibility and offer a means of monitoring and comparing performance through online analysis and reporting systems. These have culminated in the online reporting tools LG Inform (for high level data comparisons) and its partner LG Inform Plus (for more detailed drilldown into wards and lower geographies). Both these tools are unpinned by a comprehensive and well-structured database of metrics held in secure form on the Amazon Cloud.
Wider outreach and closer sharing with other sectors
In the interests of promoting closer working with other sectors and to encourage a greater take-up of open data, the LGA is keen to increase access to this data, through a new direct data feed via an Application Programmable Interface (API).. The hope is that wider access will stimulate innovation and generate cost savings.
The new service will give organisations the ability to use the 3500 items of published large and small area data held about every council and ward in England. These items drive the LG Inform and LG Inform Plus data services and are listed in the metrics-types list of esd-standards pages.
It will provide a reliable source of data about local government that represents the latest information available and which is being updated continuously. The data is structured so that selections may be made for a wide range of geographical areas (in many cases as low as Lower Super Output Areas LSOA or as high as whole regions) along with certain groupings such as wards, groups of wards, councils and groups of councils. The data is also cross referenced to the information sharing standards that have been in widespread use though the local government business model.
It is hoped that novel re-use of the data will trigger powerful analyses and theme specific applications. The API should also be able to provide cost savings to public and private sector research and information groups by reducing the duplication of local data.
Access to the data is free for modest use via a security key provided upon application. More extensive use will incur a modest charge paid monthly or annually to allow us to maintain necessary bandwidth and fund improvements and additions.
The Local Government Association ran a launch breakfast briefing about this exciting new services on Thursday 9th July at Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ. It explored the background, content and benefits of using the data held by LG Inform Plus and included speakers who have been early adopters. If you missed this event and are interested to see what happened, take a look at our online Storify service here http://e-sd.org/oVK6K to see commentary, short video presentations and social media comment.
Subscribers to LG Inform Plus get it free, others need to request an access security key described here http://api.esd.org.uk/
Help us spread the word by pointing friends and colleagues to our brief API briefing sheet.