Open Data

Since the inception of the national open data portal,, in early 2010, the topic of open data has been increasingly discussed as part of the digital service transformational “toolkit” that councils possess. Although it is now four years since was launched, open data initiatives are still in their infancy amongst councils nationally. A “straw poll” of our local neighbours in Devon shows that none have a dedicated person to lead on the topic or release more than the statutory minimum datasets.

However, the movement has now matured enough to allow new institutions such as the Open Data Institute (ODI) to develop and are now running significant training and advocacy programmes as well as incubators for new kinds of open data companies.


1)     Statutory

The transparency agenda is requiring more and more data to be made public. This started with our spending over £500 and this concept is now being extended.

2)     Economics

Transparency around community assets and other data (for example retail footfall data) can be used to improve the performance of local businesses.

3)     Efficiency and benchmarking between councils

Being able to compare spending and other data sets between councils can spark ideas for making council processes more efficient or for procuring differently

4)     Use our own data better

It is much easier for one service to understand another if its key data is released openly.

5)     Improve services

Services could be improved by greater understanding of how they are being used, their demand, and how they are being delivered with data replacing anecdote or ideology.

6)     Encourages other organisations to also release their data

The pool of open data has value which increases exponentially the more data is released, as it is sometimes combinations of data sets that reveal the opportunities.

7)     Help researchers and others looking to improve the sector

Research is faster when data is open.

8)     Enable developers to develop useful applications.

Applications like CityMapper (based on London transport data) rely entirely on open data to run and save time, money, and CO2 emissions for thousands of commuters getting around London.

Activities to date

Initial Breakthrough fund bid – a successful bid to Cabinet Office that has supported some staff training and experimented with a Devon-wide “data store” for all our open data and that of partners. We have also packaged an application called “Open Refine” which helps clean up open data sets.

Data Frame – The DataFrame is designed to provide a tool for service innovation through humanising data It also creates a shared resource for exploring key questions around data.

Existing open datasets released – :

  • Locations of public land and buildings
  • Spending over £500
  • Councillor allowances and expenses
  • Senior employee salaries
  • Grants to the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector
  • Highways defects data.

Devon Data Loom and Open Data Forum – a blog and a regular meetup of those interested in the topic from across the South West. The first of these was well attended, the second less so – we are looking quite critically at our marketing plans.

New Breakthrough Fund bid for some community building and for “widgets” to help us embed open data sets into web pages

New Release of Data Fund bid for the audit and release of social care provider data sets

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