Meerkats and Local Government

The Open Data programme in Local Gov continues apace but where is the next logical stop?

Across the country Local Authorities are publishing data, which is to be applauded. My current favourite is, which not only publishes its own data, but compares it with other nearby authorities so that you can compare how you are doing against your Aunty Maude living in the next town over.

This draws out two sets of thinking:

1. Where is the logical end point to this presentation of data? is only a matter of time away now surely, replete with cute Eastern European mammals. Alternatively, it is also an opportunity for an increase in transparency and hence the improvement of the democratic process. If you can actually find out how the authority is doing (as opposed to how they tell you they are doing whilst electioneering), you can make better informed choices on your votes. This is a Good Thing.

2. It should make it obvious from a business perspective which Authorities would benefit from merging services to create economies of scale – just so long as it doesn’t lead to over-merging (i.e. merging to the point where the new big department loses the close touch of the smaller, more local one it gobbles up).

The LGA (Local Government Authority) has published a document looking at self regulation and peer review which is to be applauded, and we in industry should be looking to back this approach.

Looking at this all from a techie point of view, I can see two problems looming:

1. No mandation* of a standard approach. If every Local Authority presents its data in a different manner, then it’s hard to compare the two (treat yourself to a quick rendition of ‘Go Compare!’ at this point)

2. There is still a fair chance of the wrong stuff being presented publicly. This is the thing that bothers me the most.

Real consideration and care needs to be taken on the second point – especially in the light of more ICO breach notifications in the last few days. Local Government needs to demonstrate it is handling data well, and generate real confidence from industry, the Public and other stakeholders. The minute someone screws up and publishes something sensitive, this whole process is going to suffer.

The message continues to be, get your Security team involved with the Local Authority data publishing project. Everything it stands for is to be applauded, and it represents a huge shift in power within the democratic process. We just need to ensure the outputs are meaningful and secure, and it’s time for Industry to add value to our customers to help them through this.

*I’m not even sure if mandation is a word. When I googled it, it seems it’s a word used by Sarah Palin. So, it’s probably not a word. I think I mean mandating. Sorry


About Graeme Stewart, McAfee

I work for McAfee as Director of Public Sector Strategy and Relations, UK&I
This entry was posted in Efficiency, ICO, Legal, Security, Sophos. Bookmark the permalink.

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