Minister outlines plan to establish a more consistent approach to data among local authorities
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is to develop a digital platform for publishing raw data and interactive maps to support builders and the housing sector.
DCLG’s chief minister, Sajid Javid, announced the initiative at yesterday’s Urban Tech Summit, following through on a plan outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto for the general election earlier this year.
He outlined the measure as part of a broad effort to get local authorities making more use of data and upgrading their digital capabilities, and referred to “patchy” compliance with a code for them to make data available online in an easily accessible format.
“This Government has long embraced the principle of open data, and I want to bring that to the housing sector,” Javid said. “Releasing data locked away in arms-length bodies like the Homes and Community Agency, and making it easier to access difficult foundational data like geospatial identifiers.
“And, although I can’t make any promises right now, I’ll be working with the Land Registry and Ordnance Survey to see what further datasets they can release.”
Javid said DCLG is taking other steps to support councils, pointing to the recent appointment of Paul Maltby as its chief digital officer with a focus on encouraging them to make more of digital opportunities.
The department is also working with the Government Digital Service and local authorities to “create a new vision” for their digital efforts, which he said should be ready by the spring.
“In the meantime, my department will be working with councils and companies alike to help everyone involved in the sector connect and share common components, skills, design patterns and – yes – code,” he said.
He also suggested that many councils have moved too slowly in digitising their operations, claiming that even though they now receive the majority of their data from the public online, half are manually rekeying more than 50%. This is creating unnecessary costs and hindering efforts to fully exploit the information.
“Much of that data is then stored in siloed server stacks tucked away in the basement, with no sharing or joined up analysis to improve the way councils work,” Javid said.
“Councils are too often trying to run modern services on outdated legacy systems, with results that are painful enough for public servants, never mind citizens.”
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0