For a while now I’ve been promoting the value of local government opening up its doors to the use of data more openly on the web.
Freeing the immense amount of data held in councils, police and local health services has the potential to generate significant tangible and intangible value for the communities these public bodies serve.
As well as that, I believe there’s a role for reuse of public data in increasing the scrutiny that the public can put public authorities under – particularly in the context of a declining offline local media which traditionally held the role of holding local public services to account.
Kent County Council has an innovation unit that’s focussed on exploring new opportunities for local government.
The team has just launched an exciting new website that I think really shows the potential of opening up public sector data and promoting its reuse.
It’s early days so there aren’t all that many mash-ups posted yet, although some early ones do give an obvious nod to the potential of this kind of thing in the future – for example the “schools by postcode” map is a simple mash-up that I would have found useful this time last yer when looking at primary schools for my son – in fact there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be on the main council site before long I expect.
At the moment most mash-ups are combining a single data set and a visualising tool (mainly maps). It’ll be interesting to see when someone posts a mash-up of multiple data sources as for me this is where the value of open data really starts to be demonstrated.
Hats off to Kent County Council for doing this – hopefully it will show other public bodies the potential for open data and we’ll start to see this kind of functionality appearing more often on main council websites.