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June 03 2010

09:18

The Great Government Data Rush – what does it mean for journalists?

Earlier this week I posted briefly on what I consider to be the most significant move for journalism by the UK government since the Freedom of Information Act. But I wanted to look more systematically at what is likely to be a huge change in the information landscape that journalists deal with…

So. In the spirit of data journalism, here is an embedded spreadsheet of the timetable of data to be released by national government, local government, and other bodies. I’ve added notes on how I feel each piece of data could be important, and any useful links – but I’d like you to add any thoughts on other possibilities. Here it is:

Meanwhile, over at Data.gov.uk, the Local Data Panel has published a post inviting comment on the format that data might be supplied in, and fields it might contain.

  • As a first stage, publish the raw data and any lookup table needed to interpret it in a spreadsheet as a CSV or XML file as soon as possible. This should be put on the council’s website as a document for anyone to download. Or even published in a service such as Google Docs
  • There is not yet a national approach for publishing local authority expenditure data. This should not stop publication of data in its raw, machine-readable form. Observing such raw data being used is the only route to a national approach, should one be required
  • Publishing raw data will allow the panel and others to assess how that data could/should be presented to users. Sight of the data is worth a hundred meetings. Members of the panel will study the data, take part in the discussion and revise this advice.
  • As a second stage, informed by the discussion, the panel and users can then give feedback about publishing data (RDF, CSV, etc) in a way that can be consistent across all local authorities involving structured, regularly updated data published on the Web using open standards.

Help Me Investigate contributor and all-round good guy Neil Houston has already responded with some very interesting points.

“You’d be surprised how many times there are some systems where it’s not totally easily to identify the payment, back to the relevant invoice (apart from a manual reconciliation), you need to know the invoice side of the transactions – as that is where the cost will be booked to (as the payment details will just be crediting cash, debiting Accounts Payable).”

June 01 2010

15:16

Local and national government open up data – starting now

Yesterday saw the publication of an incredible letter by David Cameron to government departments, including local government. It sets out a whole range of areas where data is to be released - some of it scheduled for January 2011, but some of it straight away. You can find my thoughts about the release in this article by Laura Oliver, along with those of the likes of David Higgerson. This is probably as important an event as the passing of the FOI Act - it is more important than the launch of data.gov.uk. Note it.

February 23 2010

09:36

Data.gov.uk and the ASBOrometer – video interview

Here’s a video interview by Conrad Quilty-Harper with the creator of the ASBOrometer app for iPhone and Android. The app pulls information available through Data.gov.uk, allowing you to see levels of antisocial behaviour (and other data) near you. More broadly he talks about the potential of data.gov.uk going forward. Obvious implications for local and hyperlocal journalism…

January 21 2010

09:23

data.gov.uk launches in public beta

As widely reported elsewhere, data.gov.uk is now available in public beta:

Data.gov.uk acts as an online point of access for government-held non-personal data. This is to enable people like you to take it, re-use it and make interesting things with.

Full introductory post at this link…

“It’s [government data] such an untapped resource,” Sir Tim Berners Lee told BBC News.

“Government data is something we have already spent the money on… and when it is sitting there on a disk in somebody’s office it is wasted.”

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