https://data.blog.gov.uk/2016/12/19/territory-register-goes-into-beta/

Territory register goes into beta

As a final hurrah at the end of a busy year and just in time for the Christmas break, the registers programme is excited to share the beta territory register!

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Tony Worron, the register’s custodian, has already shared his fantastic insights into how this particular register came into being and why it’s an exciting development for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). If you’re new to the territory register and would like to understand how it’s evolved through discovery and alpha to beta then check out the register history page. It outlines how the FCO, GDS and users of territory data worked together to get this far.

Getting from alpha to beta

Now that the register’s in beta, teams from inside and outside government can incorporate them into their products and services. They can be confident that the fields in the register have been firmed up by the custodian based on user feedback and know that the data in the register will be updated at source in response to changes.

The territory register went into alpha towards the end of October.  Those of you who are familiar with the register creation process will know that the alpha phase is all about gathering feedback on the shape (scope and fields) of the register. During that time we’ve had lots of valuable feedback from individuals and service teams based inside and outside government. All of them expressed excitement about using the register but also posed useful questions based on their usage of the register.

In the alpha version of the territory register there was a ‘text’ field. It provided contextual information about some of the records in the register. The content of this field can (and likely will) change depending on the geopolitical climate rather than the raw data about a territory. In practice this would mean updates to records even when there were no material changes to core characteristics of a territory. Working from user feedback, we worked with Tony to find a better means of providing this contextual information without distorting the way the register gets updated.  We removed the text field and the contextual information will be provided in the geographical names index maintained by the FCO on GOV.UK.    

Another theme in the feedback was that there are people out there who are itching to use this register in conjunction with the country register. Given the ever-shifting and evolving context around territories and their relationships with countries, there is no elegant way to link these two registers in a way that works for all users. For this reason we’ve left it to service teams and other users to link the territory and country registers together in ways that best meet their needs. The geographical names index is a useful guide for doing this. We would love to hear about (and support) any tools that users are building to facilitate this sort of mapping.

What’s next?

The territory register will continue to be updated by Tony Worron and his FCO colleagues as and when changes happen in this space. This will ensure that any products or services using the register will always have the very latest version of the information. And to help these teams find the authoritative information in the register, we will be working with FCO to remove or redirect duplicate lists to prevent any potential confusion and help the register move to live.

Come 2017 we’ll also be supporting the FCO in its efforts to identify any new registers they would like to create next year.

True to form, our recent post on the registers we’re working with departments to develop next year, and sharing the alpha territory and school registers for feedback highlighted ways that we could improve the presentation and usability of registers. So we’ll look to iterate and test a new design of the register pages in early 2017.

If you’re interested in using the territory register, or any of our beta registers, then please do get in touch.