News and press

Friday, 30th April 2010

Local Authorities collaborate in the adoption of ‘Open Data’ standards for election results data

Thanks to the open data movement, this year's election result data is set to be published, used and re-used in way that has never before been possible.

From websites such as www.openlylocal.com , through to iphone apps and community portals, this year people will be able to access the results they want, and in a way that makes sense.

Following the launch of data.gov.uk - the Government's open data portal and a note published to Local Authorities announcing the 'Open Election Data Project'  by SOCITM (Society for Information Technology Managers) and the LGA (Local Government Association), there is a very strong open data movement emerging in Local Government.

Stuart Harrison, web manager at Lichfield District Council, and a proactive advocate of Open Data, has worked with Chris Taggart founder of OpenlyLocal.com (who also sits on the Local Public Data panel) to deliver a practical application of this for local government, by making election results available in an Open Data format.

To enable local council content editors to rapidly introduce Open Data, Stuart Harrison has developed a 'plug-in' for Jadu CMS, a content management system popular with local authorities and large organisations, that also powers the Lichfield District Council website.

Stuart worked closely in partnership with Jadu to deliver a high quality 'plug-in' that could be shared with other Local Authorities who use Jadu CMS - instantly empowering more councils to provide election data to the public for consumption in applications. The 'plug-in' also enables the addition of historic data so trends from previous elections can also be viewed.

Stuart Harrison of Lichfield District Council says: "As I've been advising on the Open Election project, I was really keen that Lichfield be one of the first to start publishing our data. Rather than just having the data on a static page, I wanted non-technical officers to be able to use it too, so I set about building a plug in. Once that was built, it seemed sensible to share it with the Jadu community, so as many councils as possible could open up their election data."

Open data is made available using RDFa (Resource Description Framework - in - attributes), a W3C recommended standard for the Semantic Web. The RDFa standard provides a good way of opening up data because it is easy to use for people familiar with XHMTL.

This means that local authority web managers can enter election results into a friendly user interface, enabling residents to see information not previously easily obtainable, such as what councillor sits on what committee; when they were elected and how many votes they've received.

Suraj Kika, CEO of Jadu says: "Part of Jadu's mission is 'to make content and data accessible to humans and machines' - and for Jadu this plugin represents an important shift in the way content and data is published. We were delighted to work with Lichfield Council and Stuart to deliver this module and help our Local Government user base benefit - meaning millions of people will benefit. Opening up public data and the Semantic Web in general is a very important part of our strategy, and there is much more to come from Jadu and our community in this area."

Lichfield District Council has already established an Open Election data page and over 20 councils are providing Open Election data using the plugin, including Manchester City Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, Kettering Borough Council, Burnley Borough Council, Ribble Valley Borough Council, East Lothian Council, Hyndburn Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Rotherham Council, Ipswich Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council and Waverley Borough Council. Other Local Authorities will be implementing the plugin before the General Elections on May 6th.

Notes for Editors

About Lichfield District Council

Lichfield District Council is based in Staffordshire, just north of Birmingham. A Jadu customer since 2005, they have been an active supporter of the open data agenda. Lichfield District Council already makes a wide range of their local data available to developers and website owners. More information is on their website at www.lichfielddc.gov.uk.

Their open data can be found at: www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/data