Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Local council? Want to publish your data? Here’s how

In a very timely fashion, data.gov.uk has come up with a blogpost explaining for any local authorities who want to know (and are listening/reading) how to publish itemised local authority expenditure.

Publishing raw data quickly is an immediate priority, but in the medium term local authorities should work towards structured, regularly updated data published on the Web using open standards. Subject to other issues below, our immediate advice to local authorities is:

  • Users will be interested in the core information held in the accounts system – such as expenditure code, amount paid, transaction date, beneficiary, and payment reference number. The expenditure code has to be explained and steps taken to help users identify the
    beneficiary
  • 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 openstandards.

There’s more too, about experiences of some of the councils which have published data. Very well worth reading.

One Response to “Local council? Want to publish your data? Here’s how”

  1. Paul Says:

    I’ve written about some of the local authorities that have already released their data here: http://blog.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/2010/06/open-data-across-the-public-sector/
    The good people at Warwickshire County Council are even running a competition, called Hack Warwickshire, to find the best uses. There’s an iPad up for grabs for the winner.

Leave a Reply