Open Data: the last two months
The open data world moves very fast, so I thought it might be useful to round up a couple of things that have happened since then.
You may have heard about this new website, which displays an open version of the Charity Commission register.
Chris was looking to link local government spending data to a list of charities, and found that there was no "open" list of charities in the UK.
While the Commission does put the register on their website - and also makes copies of it available to researchers - because you can't easily download the whole register, and the website is not machine-readable, Chris decided to construct his own version using screen scraping.
We don't yet know what the Charity Commission thinks about this site, but Chris is keen to open a dialogue with them. The Commission did reject a similar request on the OPSI website in June.
The open nature of the data means you can use it in your own applications or webpages. I created a small application which use Google Charts to compare income over time for two charities - just change the charity numbers in the URL for different charities.
Civil Society data
But as the Almanac shows, it's important to remember that the Charity Commission register only shows part of the civil society picture. Organisations such as trade unions, community interest companies, sports clubs, political parties and universities have other regulators with their own lists of organisations.
With this in mind, I've created a list of these data sources, and how "open" they are. The list is just a start - any other sources or thoughts you have are welcome!
Government is gradually continuing to release detailed spending data, with some local authorities and central departments publishing it in advance of the deadlines of January (for local) and November (for central).
Communities and Local Government is leading the way amongst central government departments - they released all their transactions above £500 in August.
The problem I have with the data released so far is that charities and civil society organisations are not separately identified. The data is very useful for looking at the relationship between the voluntary sector and the state, but without a charity identifier (such as a charity number) we have to rely on matching organisations by name, which will always give an incomplete picture.
In this post I've looked at what's happened recently - in a few days I'll also look at what the future holds for open data. I'm also hoping to set some of NCVO's own data free, so watch this space for more details...
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