Sharing data can improve council services, writes Duncan Jefferies

"Open Data"

Local council data should be ‘open by default’

Duncan Jefferies of The Guardian writes about the importance of local councils “making data sets available to the public and engaging with local developers” in order to better their services.

He believes that “opening up data sets can improve a council’s transparency and give citizens, developers and policy fanatics the materials to create apps and tools for the community.”

How data is ‘opened up’ and used is entirely up to individual councils, for instance an interactive map that highlights local services.

An example Jefferies gave was that of Lambeth council, who want to make their data “open by default” and launched a website to promote dialogue between citizens and developers; another one called for community information; Lambeth Healthwatch, a consumer group for health and social care services; and a Love Your Space campaign, to encourage public use of Lambeth’s parks and open spaces.

Similarly, Redbridge council currently publishes 100 data sets on its DataShare website, which receives 700 hits a month and has data designed to be useful to the public without being explained by a third party. The site has tools which let people filter the data, for instance seeing it as graphs or geographically.

Jefferies believes that “as open data initiatives gather momentum, local authorities that don’t open up their data or encourage collaboration with developers might find their stance questioned by the public.”

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