Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Open Addresses - An end to the "Address Wars"?

It's finally happened. After the rise and fall of empires, the UK has created a republic of the people.

No, we haven't asked the Windsors to move on - what's actually happened is Open Addresses.

For anyone who hasn't read this blog before, I'll give you a one paragraph overview of the problem we've faced..

The UK is seen as a leader in Open Data. However, as virtually every decision made by government and businesses involves a 'place', the lack of an open list of places (an address dataset) has been a major problem. We have lots of commercial datasets such as Royal Mail PAF, Ordnance Survey AddressBase and a variety of local gazetteers and other datasets owned by government bodies. While choice is good, in this case the choice and (more importantly) the cost have created issues with uptake of accurate data, problems with matching and in short, chaos.



Now, finally, the issues caused by a lack of a free, open and accurate address source for government and business are being tackled. Today, Open Addresses has launched in public alpha. It's simple - they are using a number of already open sources and asking the public to add their own addresses to build a single base that can be made available to everyone for free use and re-use.

The challenge is a big one. Collecting the ~23m UK addresses and keeping them updated and accurate is not easy. The likes of Royal Mail don't always get it right (as anyone who's ever moved into a brand new house will know) and they have a fair bit of funding behind them. However, with a concerted effort from the community at large, Open Addresses have a fair chance.

So, how can you help?

1. Add your home and office address here. Of course, read the submission guidelines if you want to.
2. If you're technical, take a look at the bulk download and API to see if your business or product could make use of the data.
3. Support Open Addresses by tweeting, blogging and telling people about it. Crowd sourcing only works if you get a big crowd!

Open Addresses have been supported by the Open Data Institute and the Open Data User Group via their release of data fund.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

ODUG 3: Revenge of the user?

If you're a follower of my Open Data shenanigans then you may like to know that I'm happily continuing with my work on the Open Data User Group.

This year is an important one for the Transparency agenda. We will end with an election but in the mean time, we'll be looking to create the National Information Infrastructure.

I won't repeat all of the content that's out there - check out the links provided for the latest. What I will do though is give you a view on what I hope will happen between now and May 2015.

NII - A framework for the future
The National Information Infrastructure (NII) is intended to be the mechanism, rules, list (and whatever else) that provides us with our national data backbone.

Think of it like any other national infrastructure such as roads, rail, phone or water - these are the key services that enable business, government and society to operate. Without them, we're in trouble!

Data is just the same - the NII will define which data assets are of national importance and should be enshrined with various rules to govern their quality, availability and purpose. Hopefully, most of this will be Open Data too.

ODUG will be working with the Cabinet Office and our huge network of stakeholders to ensure the NII benefits us all.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Business Rates Reform - Easy as Pie and (data) Mash(up)

Business Rates - not exactly a sexy topic but as highlighted by this BBC News article, it's something of huge importance to the UK economy and many businesses both old and new trying to grow in a world of online retailers and a slowly recovering economy.

As detailed helpfully on the gov.uk site, business rates are basically the non-residential equivalent of Council Tax. Premises are taxed annually to pay for services like rubbish collection, street lights and so on.

While some types of property are exempt, the rates affect offices and shops with some types of organisations and areas subject to various forms of discounts. Complicated!

Now, with rates calculated by the Valuation Office Agency (in England & Wales at least) based upon the value of the property (similar to the Council Tax banding process with the occasional re-assessment) and a multiplier set by central Government (linked to inflation); there are inevitably going to be some businesses get better value for money than others. So what are the problems and how could we solve them?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Guest blog for Locatable - the East London Property Market

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll probably know that I live in East London and have a passing interest in Open Data(!).

After getting to know the guys at Locatable during my visits to the Open Data Institute and Open Government Partnership conference, they asked me to write a guest blog on my personal experience of the property market in East London.

The result of this is here and as always reflects my personal opinions (based upon some basic evidence) and in no way reflects upon the views of Locatable or my employer.

Anyway, I hope it's interesting! While you're there, take a good look at Locatable as this company represents all that is good about open data and owning your information.

Locatable

Friday, 17 January 2014

Seeing data through all the numbers

Well 2013 is over and 2014 is upon us. What does it mean? What are the trends going to be this year?

I'm not going to join in that game but I am going to spend a little time talking about something that's been on my mind for a while, namely Data Visualisation. This is the term used to describe graphics that communicate facts and figures.

These are used by a variety of "data people" from finance departments to marketing managers, journalists and beyond. This article will look at a few of the common tools and good examples to see how data visualisation is being used to change the way data is used to bring value to businesses and people.

Wordle: Data Is A Product
A wordle of this blog

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Well it's been a while.. What's changed?

As the title indicates, it's been far too long since I last wrote a post. Terrible I know.

A lot has changed since my last post. I've moved to a new role responsible for B2B Marketing products. My focus is now very much on helping SMEs grow and cut the risks associated with this.

This lends itself superbly to the aims of the Open Data movement which is reaching a major milestone this week.

On Tuesday 29th October, the Open Data Institute held their first annual summit to celebrate the first 12 months of this superb organisation. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but followed the event closely on Twitter using the tag #ODIsummit.

The major announcement made was the formation of 13 global 'nodes' to help further the cause and bring the collaborative way of working between data owners, start-ups and society to a wider audience. These new nodes include two national trials in the USA & Canada, eight regional/city nodes in Dubai, Chicago, North Carolina, Paris, Trento, Manchester, Brighton and Leeds. The final 3 nodes are 'communication' nodes in Gothenburg, Moscow & Buenos Aires.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The ODUG Push Continues - We need your help!

Hi all,

As regular readers will know, I have a hobby: Open Data.

As a member of the Open Data User Group I work with a like-minded community to gather requests and produce business cases to encourage public bodies to release more of their data to benefit UK PLC and society.

So far, we've had some successes and have also published our first tranche of business cases for datasets such as the VAT Register, river centre lines and historic Met Office observations. These can all be found here and I'd encourage you to comment on them to add your support and further evidence to get this data made available to everyone, for free.

Most important of all, we are pushing the UK Government to make available an Open Address Register for the UK. Currently, a number of files exist which are managed and licensed commercially by the likes of the Royal Mail and Ordnance Survey. If you know anything about my day job at Experian QAS, you'll also know that I have an intimate knowledge of a number of these datasets. I'm not proud of that fact.

This is really important. An accurate register of addresses and locations needs to be held by the public for the benefit of all. We are at serious risk of at least one of the core reference files available today falling into private hands.


Addresses are crucial to our lives. Whether it be delivering a curry, getting a bank account or asking for an ambulance; your address and postcode are very, very important. With the current license restrictions on the data preventing many organisations and individuals from re-using it (with the cost of some data being out of reach for all but the largest corporations), the state of play in the UK is not good when compared to some of our European neighbours.

If having such important data in private hands (under an expensive, restrictive license) is not a concern for you, stop reading now. If this is a concern for you as a business or an individual (remember, your taxes pay to create and manage this data); then please visit this link to help the Open Data User Group get your data where it should be - in your hands.