The London Borough of Hounslow is committed to playing a full part in the local government open data agenda. Here we outline the essential elements of our approach.
What is open data?
Open data is non-personal data that is made freely available to be used, reused and redistributed by anyone.
To qualify as open data a set of data should have the following characteristics:
- It should be published in an open format.
- It should be machine readable.
- It should be published under an open licence that allows for free reuse.
You can read more about the definition of open data in the Open Data Handbook.
Why should local authorities publish open data?
The Local Government Association (LGA) has argued that local government should encourage a meaningful approach to open data in order to:
- foster accountability;
- innovate and transform services leading to improvements and efficiencies;
- empower citizen and community groups to choose or run services and shape neighbourhoods;
- and drive local economic growth.
Greater transparency is at the heart of enabling the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account. Where public money is involved there is a fundamental public interest in being able to see how it is being spent, to demonstrate how value for money has been achieved or to highlight inefficiency.
Making public sector data available for use can also provide an opportunity for innovation by the public, business and third sector. New ways of using or interpreting the data, perhaps combining it with other sources of data, can be developed independently. With these new tools and greater understanding, a more informed public can make better decisions, both for themselves and the wider community, and develop new ways to solve problems.
Finally, publishing open data plays an important role for local government in meeting its legislative and regulatory obligations. For example, the local government transparency code requires local authorities to publish specific information about assets, expenditure, and staff salaries.
The Hounslow approach to Open Data
The council has committed to the timely and accessible publication of data about the full range of services we provide, the money we spend and the resources we hold. We will also seek to collect, aggregate and publish data about the borough of Hounslow itself and its economy and community.
We have decided that we will follow six open data principles:
- We will publish open data by default
- We will publish accurate and complete data
- We will publish data quickly
- We will publish data that is easy to access and use
- We will continually seek to enhance the data we publish
- The publication of our data will be responsive to the needs of our residents and will help support the delivery of services
In order to realise this commitment we have developed, and will continue to evolve and improve, a set of procedures and standards for the management of open data within the organisation. We have identified a number of roles with specific responsibilities for open data amongst staff across all levels and departments of the organisation. We have also invested in developing a dedicated online platform on which to publish and make available to the public our data.
Beyond the publishing of open data, the council will also seek to find new and innovative ways to use that data. We will seek to build tools, applications and services that make use of the data. We will look for ways that the open data can be used to improve service delivery and outcomes. We believe our new specialist data team will help us build on the progress we have made so far and that we will be able to increase the range and frequency of the open data we publish.
Our data online
The London Borough of Hounslow’s dedicated online platform for open data can be found here: