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The best data opens itself on UK Gov’s Performance Platform

This is third in a series of posts about the UK Government’s Performance Platform, cross-posted on the OKFN blog as it is about open data. Part 1 introduced why the platform is exciting, and part 2 described how it worked inside.

The best data opens itself.

No need to make Freedom of Information requests to pry the information out of the state.

No need to build massive directories as checklists for civil servants to track what they’re releasing.

Instead, the data is just there. The code just opens it up naturally as part of what it does.

One of the unspoken exciting things about the UK Government’s Performance Platform is that it is releasing a whole bunch of open data.

Here are two examples.

Pet shop licences

1. Licensing performance

This is a graph (with data underneath, of course!) of pet shop licenses applied for over time in various counties. It’s part of a larger system which will eventually have all different types of licenses all over the country. You can already find alcohol, food, busking… Lots of topics.

As always with open data, there’ll be many unpredictable uses. Most users will do so quietly, you will never know they did. Perhaps a manager at Pets at Home can spot changing pet shop market conditions, or a musician carefully examine the busking license data…

 2. Tax disc for vehicles

Tax disc applications

Basic data about transactional services can potentially tell you a lot about the economy. For example, the graph on the right of vehicle tax disc applications. This could tell an auto dealer – or a hedge fund! – information about car ownership.

It is constantly updated, you’re getting much fresher data than any current national statistics. If you need it, the current number of users online is updated in real time. As the performance platform expands, I’d expect it to offer breakdowns by location and type of vehicle.

A charity can learn about digital inclusion from this open data. How many people are applying online as opposed to at a post office?

The future

Already, with the performance platform only in its alpha phase, numerous datasets are being released as a side effect. This will grow for several reasons:

  • GDS aspire to have hundreds of services covered, across the whole range of Government.
  • Service managers in departments can get extra visualisations they need, extending the diversity of data.
  • At some point politicians will start asking for more things to be measured.
  • Maybe in the end activists will make pull requests to improve the data released.

This is great for businesses, charities, citizens, and the Government itself.

A fundamentally new kind of open data – that which transactional services can spit out automatically.

Making things open makes things better.

What data are you looking forward to the performance platform accidentally releasing for you?

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