The following is a guest post which originally appeared in the Open Data Blog (http://openviz.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/local-data-exchange-ldex-incubator/) which is an unofficial blog featuring contributions from staff working at a UK government department – Communities and Local Government (CLG).
Announcing the launch of new data content, and improved functionality
DCLG’s Local Data Exchange incubator:
Calling all developers – your data needs you!
Do you have a passion for using public-sector data to develop new insights into real-world problems/issues? Are you actively engaged in building online tools which help citizens understand and engage with public services?
We are looking for developers to build visualisations using data served through our new, prototype Local Data Exchange (LDEx) Application Programming Interface (API). Perhaps you are interested in comparing and contrasting data on Housing, Planning or deprivation in different parts of the country? Maybe you are working on tools which blend together local and national sources on these and related subjects? Or, possibly you just want to get involved in shaping how Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) should publish and share its data using open standards and LinkedData techniques?
Regardless of your interests, we would very much welcome your ideas and feedback on how we might further extend and improve LDEx. We are keen to hear feedback on:
- Where we have made mistakes in the interface design, or structure and format of results.
- What else we need to do to help you understand and work with the data.
- How and where LDEx is providing real benefits to you. What does it allow you to do now that you couldn’t do before? Has it helped you to build applications more quickly and easily?
- Any new or additional DCLG data or functionality that you would like to see incorporated.
For further background on why we’re developing LDEx, please see the sections below.
The transparency agenda says that data is the fuel to power growth in online innovation, and that this will underpin delivery of more open, accountable public services.
The Transparency Principles indicate that we should move progressively to publishing our data in more open forms, as a routine “business-as-usual” activity.
DCLG’s data portfolio includes a whole raft of statistics on key socio-economic issues. This includes topics such as housing and planning, levels of deprivation in local areas, local government finance and fire incidents. There is also more detailed operational and transaction data again on topics such as housing, planning appeals and applications, but also more recently, detailed information on expenditure over £500, our organisational structures, and staffing numbers and pay.
Through adopting the Transparency Principles, and moving progressively to routine, open data publication, we anticipate a growth in new online tools which:
- present our data to a range of different audiences, helping them to understand and interact with it in more innovative and intuitive ways; and
- quickly blend, combine, compare and contrast departmental data with other related information. For example to set our data alongside, say, data from a local authority and other public sector agencies, in essence to paint a clearer picture of how public services come together and work together in different localities.
Clearly achieving this will be very challenging, especially in the current financial climate. We will need to find new ways of working with developers and innovators. Our focus here should be on rapidly developing low-cost tools which present data that users want, in a form and style that supports more open, accountable and transparent public services.
Alongside that, there is work to do to demonstrate the benefits to data publishers within CLG’s own community of Agencies and Arms-Length Bodies . We must do more to persuade and convince them to change how they publish their data, and in some cases what they publish. This means including sufficient information for machines, not just human beings, to read and understand our data, explore the links and then join it with other related sources.
The Local Data Exchange (LDEx)
LDEx is a prototype which is being used to investigate the benefits of publishing departmental data in open, machine-readable formats.
LDEx comprises a fully open Application Programming Interface (API) for software innovators and developers to discover and query a wealth of CLG’s data, and then retrieve it in a range of open formats. The API utilises latest standards. Key features are a RESTFul solution, incorporating LinkedData standards and techniques to discover and query CLG data, and explore linkages to other related external content,
In terms of content, LDEx currently incorporates:
- DCLG data for around 130 indicators on Housing and Planning at local authority level across a number of years. Data includes statistics on house building, numbers of affordable homes, numbers of households on council waiting lists, and house prices.
- The index of multiple deprivation, which is a consistent and reliable measure of deprivation across England, grouped into key subject/topic domains such as crime, health and well-being, children, and older-people.
To see the full list of data items which also include comparative performance information from the National Indicator Set, please see this google spreadsheet.
In moving to a production-style solution, we want to work in partnership with developers and innovators to ensure that:
- LDEx works – developers like the standards and mechanisms for querying and retrieving data; and
- it is geared to demand (both for data content and functionality), backed-up with evidence of real-world usage and take-up in a range of scenarios.
If you are interested in working with us on the LDEx production please just send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting in touch
We really welcome any views, insights or experiences you are able to share so would love to hear from you. You can do this in two ways – either by commenting on this blog (you’ll notice the ‘leave a comment’ link at the top right of this post) or alternatively, if you would rather email, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email@example.com