• Post category:Open Data
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You are currently viewing Wales needs open data! – An open letter

Wales needs open data! – An open letter

Open Wales has been lagging a bit recently, but I’m feeling invigorated so it’s time to get it back on track.

Sadly I’m yet to come across a how-to for persuading governments to release data (obviously, if you find one send it this way) so this is really a quiet call to arms, I’m hoping if I get the ball rolling people will jump in with good ideas.

Reasons why encouraging more people to get involved would be a very good thing.

  • Open data Wales needs to be Welsh and English – and my Welsh is limited to railway platform announcements and which button to press on automated phone systems.
  • If Wales is going to be more open pressure needs to come from all around the country not just the South East.

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My starting point for Open Wales at the moment is really just to start gauging support and trying to build a cohesive campaign (possibly with a meet-up, probably in a pub).

So my first idea is to put together an open letter, one that could possibly be sent to ministers and AMs to try to put the issue a little more firmly on the map and maybe see who might be supportive.

Hopefully it will be a starting point for lots of people across Wales to take a red pen to it and start adding their ideas, so we can all start putting some pressure on the Welsh Government to join the open data revolution.


The UK Government has committed to policy of transparency, which includes making datasets accessible to the public, something which, so far, the Welsh Government has been slow to match.

I believe the Welsh Government should commit to an open data charter and encourage other public bodies in Wales to do the same.

This would involve a commitment to making the data they hold available publicly and in ways that are accessible and re-useable.

I believe there are a number of good reasons why Wales should be embracing the open data agenda.

1. It will help make Wales’ public services more effective and efficient

The process of committing to opening up data would allow councils, health boards and branches of government to review what data they hold and share it openly. This would reduce duplication and allow gaps in knowledge to be filled, improving efficiency.

For example, the Wales Audit Office recently raised concerns that current information gathering about public participation in recycling was a weakness amongst councils.

Could releasing the data held, both on participation in recycling schemes and how they work, both help fill the gaps and encourage the public to find ways to get people more engaged in reducing waste?

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies put out a report at the end of January on data recording by forces, which criticised both Gwent and South Wales police for poor crime recording procedures, in some cases leading to no crimes being recorded wrongly.

So poor data management potentially makes public bodies worse at their jobs (and lets criminals get away with crimes), so reviewing the data with the view to making more public could lead to connections between data been made that had previously been missed.

Data held by public bodies should be a public resource. As the Open Data Charters of Engagement discussed at OpenGovCamp12 says:

“Government information and data are common resources, managed in trust by government.

“They provide a platform for public service provision, democratic engagement and accountability, and economic development and innovation.

“A commitment to open data involves making information and data resources accessible to all without discrimination; and actively engaging to ensure that information and data can be used in a wide range of ways.”

2. Open data has economic benefits.

One of the primary purpose of open data is to publish data so it can be reused in ways that are useful to the wider public.

In an article for The Times, about the UK Government’s transparency agenda, Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt wrote:

“When the data has been released, applications have quickly followed, from mobile apps to find an NHS dentist to companies that use the open data on spending to advise local authorities on how to get the best value for money.

“These open data apps are creating new businesses for their developers and great resources for us all.”

As a Harvard study on the potential of open data in a democracy points out public data could be used to create businesses generating billions – shouldn’t Wales be at the forefront of this?

Shouldn’t the Welsh Government be doing everything it can to encourage the development of the business that could take advantage of public data?

Wales has a burgeoning mobile technology sector, giving them more data to play with would have economic benefits, while potentially creating tools to make people’s lives easier.

3. Wales is a radical country.

It was the first Fair Trade country and the first to make the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child part of domestic law, there are many other areas where the Welsh Government has been proactive in embracing new ideas.

This is an area where we should be leading from the front, not trailing behind. We should be pledging to go further than the UK government, to be encouraging public bodies in Wales to start releasing the data they hold based on a commitment to the belief that public data should be open.

This is not a call to make all data available tomorrow, instead it is about a commitment to working towards making as much data public as possible.

It is a commitment the Welsh Government should be making.

Yours faithfully

Claire Miller

Wales Open Data Charter

By signing up to this charter, organisations will agree to work towards providing all non-personally identifying datasets they hold as open data, available online for free, licensed for re-use.

They agree to engage with the public to discuss which datasets could be released and to explain why some, or parts of some, datasets can not be released.

What this means in practice:

  • Data should be free to access, without requiring registration.
  • The release of data should be ongoing, all information gathered should be evaluated and where possible made available to the public. Ideally, efforts should be made to review and release historic data held by the organisation.
  • Data released should be primary data, wherever possible – primary data is data as collected at the source, with the finest possible level of granularity, not in aggregated or modified forms.
  • Data should be published in a timely fashion, i.e. as soon after collection as feasible, and if collection is ongoing, information about future releases should be provided.
  • Data must be accessible – offering a choice of data formats is ideal – pdf for people who want readability, machine-readable formats for those of us who actually want to do something with the data.
  • Data should be accessible via a permanent web address, ideally in repositories that gather together all of the organisations data.
  • Explanatory material, such as schemas, explanations of abbreviations, information about data gathering methods should also be provided where necessary
  • Information should be published under the Open Government Licence as a default, to encourage re-use of the data by the public.

The charter picks ideas from the Open Data Charters of Engagement discussed at OpenGovCamp12, as well as the Open Data Handbook from the Open Knowledge Foundation

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