• Post category:Open Data
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Open Wales – An Update

Firstly, I’ve been a bit quiet recently due to a very messy house move (see Twitter for much whinging) and a few weeks without home internet (see Twitter for yet more whinging).

But seeing as quite a bit has happened in the last couple of months on the Open Wales front, this is a quick update.

From the last post, Carl Morris suggested the easiest first step would be to persuade public bodies to switch to an open data licence.

Which is what Monmouthshire Council has now done.

I went over to meet Esko Reinikainen from the council to hear a bit about what they’re doing and I think the before linked press release reflects a really positive attitude towards working towards being more open.

I’m pretty excited to see how it pans out.

There’s also been an Assembly response to Jacqui Thompson’s (aka @caebrwyn) petitions on filming council meetings and spending over £500, which was discussed by the Petitions Committee on November 15.

As she posts on her blog, the committee was broadly supportive of both of the petitions and have agreed to discuss them with Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant on January 10.

Cost was a big concern, especially on the spending over £500 as the benefits to the public of lots of financial data being slightly less obvious than broadcasting council meetings on the internet.

The committee is going to do some research on feasibility of publishing spending data, the most obvious way would be to ask how and why the councils who are publishing are managing to put the data out there (there are four so far (as far as I know) MonmouthshireNewportVale of Glamorgan and Wrexham).

Incidentally, I did FOI all the councils to ask for the data – some did manage to dig up some of the information and/or expressed an interest in trying to publish it on a regular basis, some are frankly not going to do it unless the Welsh Government orders them to.

And earlier tonight someone tweeted a link to Paul Byers’ question about the Welsh Government’s views on open data, views, which as I’ve found previously, can roughly be summed up as missing the point.

The answer is mainly about their commitment to their responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act, which isn’t really proactively making data open to the public.

Last time I asked them about Open Data, in essence to match the UK Government for data releases on education and health, I got a reply about how they publish Minister’s decisions.

But all this said I think this may be the beginnings of momentum here.

So I’m thinking a five point plan for Welsh public bodies

  • Resolve to publish information online under the Open Government Licence as a default.
  • Publish data e.g. FOI responses in disclosure logs, appendixes to council agendas etc. in a machine readable format as a matter of course, e.g. csv, xml
  • Create a hub for published data – this could just be a page of links to published documents, nothing fancy, though there’s nothing to stop them experimenting with linked data, apps and visualisations.
  • Evaluate council data with a view to publishing – data should be published wherever feasible, the spending over £500 could be a good place to start.
  • Set out a timescale to work towards reaching the above steps and publish it to allow public accountability.

Paul Byers suggests quizzing candidates on the issues ahead of next May’s local elections, which might be a great way of raising awareness/gauging support.

He also suggests some kind of Open Wales event for the International Open Data Hackathon, which I think is a great idea, but possibly a little short notice now.

Thoughts on the five-point plan? Support for an Open Wales event? Any Open Wales updates I may have missed? Let me know in the comments.

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