Lambeth council has launched an online tool called Lambeth by Numbers, which lets citizens see data released by councils and add their own information, comments and feedback, in hopes that this will get them more involved in decision-making.
The project, part of Lambeth’s aim to be ‘open by default’, uses data from the Council, the Department for Communities, and NHS sources and is viewable in the form of maps, tables and pie charts. It will be easily accessible and understandable by all citizens, not just developers or those who are “technically literate”.
According to Diarmid Swainson, assistant director of resources at Lambeth, “one of the main barriers to greater participation by residents in council decision-making is a lack of skills in accessing and handling data, which the project could help address.”
By giving people the option of adding their own information regarding, for instance, restaurants and supermarkets, Lambeth can add meaning and value to the data. However, it is important that this information is verified and not used for commercial purposes by businesses.
One solution to this problem is to let citizens check each other’s contributions, as “the council is reluctant to take on as moderating role,” according to Swainson.
Other councils are also experimenting with open data presentation tools, such as Birmingham City Council, with a prototype system that displays all public contact with the council by location.
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