Redbridge Raise the Bar
When people in the public sector talk about open data there can be quite a variance in definition. So it was an eye opening experience to meet with Redbridge Council last week to discuss their approach to data and their proposed participation in London’s Datastore. Chief Executive Roger Hampson is a member of the Local Government Data Panel and as part of their work has been looking to push the open data agenda at local level. I met with Roger and his colleagues Lee Edwards (Chief ICT Officer) and Carole Gayle to discuss how we might work together. In the first instance they shared this list which is a compendium of datasets that they currently collect and share with central government and will now work towards putting into the Datastore. But as we were chatting Roger mused about the databases run by the council including their financial systems as well as their databases which contain information on housing benefits etc and how might we liberate datasets from there. Roger likened it to the Pompidou Centre in Paris, or Lloyds in London – how can you put all the workings on the outside of the building, so everyone can see them?
But when I suggested building an API to these databases I really did not expect the answer to be yes. I knew prior to meeting Redbridge that they were cutting edge in terms of their approach to engagement and ICT but I couldn’t have imagined they would be completely up for what is huge step forward in the local government transparency agenda.
Their tech people are now in touch with our tech people for discussions so I expect things will move along fairly quickly in terms of getting the datasets on the list above into the Datastore and discussions can begin about how to build an API that will be secure enough to protect personal data while achieving Rogers stated aim. So look out in the near future for the first local authority to enter London’s Datastore and then lets hope that all 32 other boroughs follow suit with speed.