Open Data – a new tool for government

John Sheridan of The National Archives is going to talk on their efforts to use open data of legislation at UK legistation database.  They have added an API on this database, so people can build upon it and this actually happens! There is an iPhone app with which you can look at legislation. Not made by the National Archives, but by a third party, on this API.

This way, new use patterns arise. Lawyers tend to use legislation in different ways from teachers, for instance, and by customizing the app to their needs, they share those uses and get a better experience.

So, where is the benefit to the publisher? Legislation is a very complex data, so by analyzing usage, the data can actually be improved! For instance: by visualizing how people click through different laws, it can be established how they are related. Also: legislation changes often and maintaining is expensive. If users update laws too, this could potentially reduce the load on the National Archives a lot. Also, users can add insights and experience. Over the past year, more data has been added to the legislation database than in the past 50 years combined, by leveraging open data.

Technically, it was a challenge to integrate data, since it had been in Access databases and (of course) Excel spreadsheets that “crashed your computer when you tried to open them” Also, the model had to be changed from a publish-only to a read-write model.

The possibilities are endless. We could start to monitor the impact of changing laws on sentencing or get a warning if laws change. What a fantastic way to make a boring topic as legislation exciting.

2 Comments

  1. Rich Kidd

    I heard it as “than in past 15 years” rather than “50”. Good blog report though

    1. Felienne (Post author)

      Yeah, that does make more sense. Although over 15 years ago I guess so little data was available, that it might be equal 🙂

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