Local open data ecosystems – a prototype map

Ed Parkes and Gail Dawes at Nesta: “It is increasingly recognised that some of the most important open data is published by local authorities (LAs) – data which is important to us like bin collection days, planning applications and even where your local public toilet is. Also given the likely move towards greater decentralisation, firstly through devolution to cities, the importance of the publication of local open data could arguably become more important over the next couple of years. In addition, as of 1st April, there is a new transparency code for local government requiring local authorities to publish further information on things like spending to local land assets. To pre-empt this likely renewed focus on local open data we have begun to develop a prototype map to highlight the UK’s local open data ecosystem.

Already there is some great practice in the publication of open data at a local level – such as Leeds Data Mill, London Datastore, and Open Data Sheffield. This regional activity is also characterised not just by high quality data publication, but also by pulling together through hackdays, challenges and meetups a community interested in the power of open data. This creates an ecosystem of publishers and re-users at a local level. Some of the best practice in relation to developing such an ecosystem was recognised by the last government in the announcement of a group of Local Authority Open Data Champions. Some of these were also recipients of the funding for projects from both the Cabinet Office and through the Open Data User Group.

Outside of this best practice it isn’t always easy to understand how developed smaller, less urban open data agendas are. Other than looking at each councils’ website or increasingly on the data portals that forwarding thinking councils are providing, there is a surprisingly large number of places that local authorities could make their open data available. The most well known of these is the Openly Local project but at the time of writing this now seems to be retired. Perhaps the best catalogue of local authority data is on Data.gov.uk itself. This has 1,449 datasets published by LAs across 200 different organisations. Following that there is the Open Data Communities website which hosts links to LA linked datasets. Using data from the latter, Steve Peters has developed the local data dashboard (which was itself based on the UK Local Government Open Data resource map from Owen Boswarva). In addition, local authorities can also register their open data in the LGA’s Open Data Inventory Service and take it through the ODI’s data certification process.

Prototype map of local open data eco-systems

To try to highlight patterns in local authority open data publication we decided to make a map of activity around the country (although in the first instance we’ve focused on England)….(More)