Where to next on the open (data) road?

Front cover of the Open Data PlanDarllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

It doesn’t seem that long ago we were publishing our first ever Open Data Plan. However as we’re nearly at the end of 2017 I thought it was about time that we reviewed what’s been happening since we published it, what progress we’ve made against our commitments and where we’re hoping to go next.

Starting out

In 2016 when we first published the plan we, as an organisation, were already doing some good work in pockets of Welsh Government, particularly in terms of publishing our statistical and geospatial data. However we quickly realised that we needed to do more especially in terms of spreading awareness and knowledge across the organisation. Thankfully we were not alone in this journey and we were helped along the way by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and their website, and more recently by their Welsh node ODI Cardiff.

We’re making progress

 So, what have we been doing? Have we managed to achieve all our commitments? Well, the short answer is not quite. However, that being said we have achieved a number of commitments and are making good progress on others.

One of the earliest achievements was to improve the openness rating of our statistical open data platform StatsWales to 4* – according to the 5* open data rating scheme. We achieved this through introducing open data endpoints, using OData, meaning the majority of data on StatsWales is now available in machine readable format, so that it can be easily re-used.

As not everyone will have a full understanding of how this will change the way they access and use the data, I’m pleased to say that colleagues will shortly publish some guidance on StatsWales to give those of us that need it a bit of a helping hand.

Another achievement has been moving to using open formats when publishing new information on the Welsh Government website. Whilst this commitment is not restricted to the publication on open data, it does mean that when we publish open data on the website we’re now able to do so at a 3* level. An example of this is the data we publish on Welsh Government expenditure over £25k, which we publish in .ODS format (an open format for spreadsheets).

We’re also continuing to build on and develop our geospatial open data platform Lle, including the introduction of a new mapping feature enabling users to configure maps to meet their needs.

But there’s further to go…..

As I’ve already mentioned we’re already doing pretty well with our statistical and geospatial data, however what about all our other data? As an organisation we collect and hold a full range of data, and it’s essential that where appropriate we start publishing this as open data. This is by no means a small task though it’s something we plan to focus on by developing guidance for our data owners and prioritising which datasets to publish first.

Over the next year we’re also planning to revisit our commitment to developing a data catalogue. Whilst we’ve not managed to make as much progress on this as we’d hoped, over the last year we’ve developed a better understanding of the open data agenda within Wales. We’re hoping this will help us as we consider what we and other users need and what a potential solution might look like.

Finally we’re also looking to build on the support received at the recent Plenary Debate on open data, particularly in relation to the developing a non-statutory code of transparency. In developing the code, we really want to work collaboratively with other public sector bodies in Wales to ensure that any open data requirements included are both achievable and beneficial. One of the areas we’re currently looking at with public sector colleagues is making data about their workforce more openly available.

So that’s a brief summary of what we’ve been doing and some of the areas we’re planning to focus on over the next year or so.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the development of the code of transparency, or if there’s a dataset we’re responsible for that you’d like to see published openly, please drop us a line at: digitalanddatablog@gov.wales

We’d also really like to hear from those of you working on open data in the public sector in Wales. If you’d be interested in having a chat about you’re doing or planning to do please get in touch.

Post by the Office of the Chief Digital Officer

Open Data Plan image courtesy of © Edhar Yralaits | Dreamstime.com