clairemiller.net

Open Wales

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The campaign for more open data in Wales starts…well here and now unless someone else is already on it…anybody?

Anyway, I was reading a blog post about how a campaign was launched to make Montreal an open data city, which explains how they’ve managed to get to the city to form a working group to look at implementing a policy on open data.

Wales is lagging behind on open data.

This page from Openly Local pretty much sums up the problem with Wales, with a grand total of no open data councils, not even any semi open ones – every other region of Great Britain at least manages a few.

Open data appears to have passed Wales by. (All of which is hugely frustrating when you’re a data journalist working here).

So it’s time to change this.

Minimally I think Wales needs to at least match England with the data it publishes, so spending data  - the Welsh Government has just started releasing its spending over £25,000 and a tiny proportion of councils have published their spending over £500 (Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham are the only two I can think of at the moment).

An FOI I put in earlier this year asking for spending data over £500 did not produce a great response, a lot of councils are going to need to be told to release the data, they are not going to do it themselves.

Potentially I think the real gap is going to emerge when the UK Government starts to release more general public-friendly health and education data (I’ve said this before) as spending over £500 is a bit of a niche concern.

Wales needs to match that information (although I get the feeling on education at least, the Welsh Government is desperately trying to avoid releasing any data which could in any way be construed as sort of, perhaps resembling a league table – getting accurate, comprehensive, useable data out there needs to be the priority, the more you release, the more information people have, which might have avoided the whole league table issue in the first place).

As well as giving people in Wales access to information they would already (or in the near future) have access to if they lived in England, public bodies need to start developing open data policies.

This isn’t necessarily a big ask – I think the issue may be that the open data initiative sounds time consuming and costly and far too much like hard work.

But DataGM and the London Datastore are examples to aim for rather than starting points, as a quick look through the open data pages of councils that have them show, first and foremost, its about committing to release data (what ever it may be) in usable, machine readable formats – csv, xml, rss etc (please, no more pdfs), and under open licence (Open Government Licence works great) even if all you start with is a list of libraries and their locations and last year’s councillors’ allowances.

So given that it’s really not too much of an ask, Wales really should be leading the way on open data.

To try to get things moving, this week I’ve been slowly trying to talk to people who might be interested in pushing for more open data in Wales, the political parties, developers who may want to use such data to build things, to see whether there is any momentum to get this moving – initial response is a yes, maybe.

So any thoughts on where to go next? Anyone working on this already? Have I missed something Welsh public bodies should be doing urgently to open up their data?

9 Comments

  1. I’ve posted this to Cardiff Community Informatics Network on Facebook. Perhaps we could start by thinking how to promote the use of SPARQL endpoints and start thinking about a few pilot projects.

    • Thanks for posting the links.

      I’m not sure if SPARQL endpoints might be a leap too far to start with (I don’t know that much about them, they may be a lot easier to use than they look).

      Some councils in England appear to have embraced linked data but I think with a lot of them, just getting them away from pdfs is hard enough.

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  4. I don’t predict any shortage of people who would support such a campaign. It just needs a focus.

    It seems to me that the easiest first step would be to persuade public bodies to switch to an open data licence for the data that are already available. It wouldn’t need any new systems or practices, just a decision.

    • I agree, most of the open data pages that already exist on council websites are just a list of links to datasets, mostly simple things like library locations that already exist, in usable formats (not just pdfs), which are available under the Open Government Licence.

      Not a very big ask at all.

  5. Do you think there’s any chance of getting an event in Cardiff to link in to the International Open Data Hackathon on December 3rd? – http://www.opendataday.org/

    also

    Is it worth trying to determine the understanding of the issues and the stance taken of all the parties and candidates in the local authority elections next May?

  6. It seems the call has been heard, Monmouthshire has adopted the Open Government Licence. http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/site/scripts/news_article.php?newsID=547 We know the current data is badly presented (pdf’s) but there is an open call to developers to tell us which data sets you want so we can prioritise which sets to be presented in raw formats. We are also working towards a clean data portal.

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