Open Data, Open Systems

Aberdeenshire Council took forward for detailed consideration a move to make its data more accessible to people that I proposed. It was a pity support wasn't warmer on the day that saw the launch of

My motion called on the Council to make data available in common data formats so that individuals and intersested parties can reuse this information and combine information togather in any way they chose.

The BBC recently used data on serious road accidents to publish interactive maps of accident blackspots and other public bodies are embracing the "Open Data, Open Systems" concept.

I start from the principle that the data a council holds belongs to all of us and therefore should be shared.  There are lots of examples across the world of public bodies making their data available and in the UK, these moves are supported by the Cabinet Office and councils are starting to catch on.  Kent dubs their initiative "Pic and Mix" and I like the idea of making data available for people to use.

This can also save Councils money.  Making it easy for people to access data can save councils from building systems themselves.  PlanningAlerts is used by thousands of people to be notified of nearby planning applications - without the expense of Councils building their own system.    This gaves much better service to the public than trawling through weekly lists. is another initiative that enable citizens to find and contact their elected representatives.  Let's make it easy for these systems to grow to meet public demand rather than building everything ourself and paying to do so.


  1. Cllr Storr, I'm all for open data, however, there are implications in a local authority in trying to achieve this. I'm sure you well know that many systems are provided by external suppliers and councils are limited to what can be done with these systems. Any system changes will then cost money, is the savings proposed by open data out weighing the cost of setting it up? Also, data standards change all the time, how will the costs of keeping up be accounted? You just need to look at how much money has been spend by the Scottish Government on the Customer First systems to see that this is not a cheap thing to do.

  2. It will need to be incremental which is why my motion talks about procurement - but the changes I propose are already starting to happen in forward looking councils.

    What is critical is the use of open standards. Proprietary data formats change all the time - suppliers like getting money for upgrades. But open data standards tend to be longer lasting. At the simplest level, I can still read .txt documents however old they are. But .sam?

    Technically it's an open door (and I talk as someone who works in IT in another Council). Where is often falls down is that councils often publish data as .pdfs rather than in a form that is more useful.

    I think it is more a matter of will than money.


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