Open Devon - An Open Data Portal


Does the world need another data portal? Possibly not. Particularly as it wont add anymore open data into the world. But there are a number of reasons I want to add one more portal to the multitude that already exist:

  1. It will meet a need that I have. Therefore it will make life easier for me, and possibly somebody else.
  2. It is an opportunity for me to develop skills around curating data for consumption.
  3. It give me an opportunity to develop a data portal without any big outside pressures, which might be useful at some point in the future.

The Idea

I live in the county of Devon in the UK. I've been involved in community development work of some sort in Devon for ten or so years. During that time my interest in open data has grown significantly. I think that part of the appeal is that it connects my day job with my mathematical brain and my academic study in physics.

The political administration in Devon is complicated. There is a County Council for Devon. Then there are seven District or Borough Councils, along with Exeter City Council which sit below the County Council and administer certain tasks. Then there is also Plymouth and Torbay Councils, which are unitary authorities but within what has historically been thought of as Devon. Then there are many more Town and Parish councils which are the most localised form of local government. All of which, due to the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 are legally required to publish some data.

On top of that national government departments, the Office for National Statistics and various other organisations publish open data, at varying geographic levels about Devon.

Navigating all that data, published on different local authority, central government or centralised data portals can be a challenge. Reducing it down to just a Devon level is often the first step when considering the data as I often require it on a more localised level.

Therefore the idea is to bring all this Devon-level data together in one place to make it easier for me, and others interested in Devon, to access the data.

Hasn't it been done before?

Not as far as I'm aware, at least not for Devon. I am aware of some other localised data portals within the UK and I will be looking to these for inspiration about how to develop this project. Some examples are:

All those however have the backing, to some extent of their local authority. In fact most local authorities have some form of local authority portal for the data they publish. Often this is just a webpage with downloadable files, so maybe not the most helpful and searchable resource. But when there are multiple tiers of government, and most people don't fully understand who is responsible for which local service, then a centralised local repository seems like a helpful idea.

To be fair to Devon County Council, they have produced a number of useful resources. But event these are dispersed across several locations and seems to lack coordination. For example there is Github page with different repositories, some of which seem to be regularly maintained, a central location for all their Transparency Code data and an interesting JSNA Headline Tool. Although in my experience because it is an embedded PowerBI tool it seems to take an age to load!

However, you have to dig around to find these, and the many of the other local authorities seem to be less organised. So part of the challenge will be gathering the data.

Next Steps

Well I've purchased a URL, I have an idea, so I'm ready to begin!

In the first place it will probably be a case of bringing together some data on Github and seeing how useful it is. In time I'd like to develop a proper Devon Data Portal site to share all this Devon-data-goodness, but we'll see.