Camden unveils open data platform

Council makes more than 300 datasets available for app developers with pledge to provide more as requested

Camden Council has made more than 300 of its datasets available on a new open data platform, making them available for developers to use in new apps.

Open data spelled out  in Scrabble piecesIt opened up the platform on Thursday of last week with a hack event in which more than 100 coders, designers and programmers took part.

The move follows on from the adoption of its Open Data Charter in November 2015, and reasserts its position as one of local government’s leading organisations in the movement.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, technology and growth at the London borough, said: “In 2015 we became an open-by-default council where datasets would be published unless there was a compelling reason not to. Our platform has built up a huge store of clean, accessible data for public benefit.

“The data available on Open Data Camden has the potential to improve the everyday lives of local residents and we want to unlock this potential to improve public services and drive value in the digital economy." 

The borough has made 305 datasets available on the Camden Open Data site, with 1.7 million page views since it was first trialled in 2015.

The datasets on the new platform provide information on features such as planning applications, housing stock, parking bays and road accidents. Residents and businesses are able to request specific datasets if they are not already there. There is a recent example in the form of data around traffic accidents by area.

SaaS system

The platform works on a system provided by software-as-a-service provider Socrata. The company’s director for the UK, Doug McLeod, said: “Dozens of Camden Council datasets are updated every night automatically, and immediately made available to the community. Hundreds more are updated monthly or more regularly.

“Camden probably publishes more real, live data than any other UK council and probably any other similar size government anywhere. Of even greater interest are the ways this data will be used to help reduce the costs of keeping Camden residents actively participating in the running and improving of council services, and overall cost-reduction efforts.”

The council highlighted how it has used open data to create a new planning email alert system and to add planning applications to its customer account. This has enabled programmers to re-use data in apps that helped to save £200,000 in the planning service’s budget.

Image by justgrimes, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr