Wigan Council's '˜open data' pledge

Council chiefs are embarking on an initiative to make vast streams of data collected by the local authority open and freely available to the public.

Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 9:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 10:00 am
Work is currently under way to build a mobile app to allow residents to report incidents of Japanese knotweed

Town hall chiefs acknowledge the ambitious project will require a culture shift and carries risks associated with the Data Protection Act.

But they believe there will be huge benefits to both the council and local business, as well as the general population, by becoming ‘open by default’.

A number of open data projects are already underway including a purpose-built website containing a range of facts and figures on subjects including population growth, ward boundaries, demographics and health.

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Work has also started on creating a mobile app allowing residents to report invasive species such as Japanese knotweed.

A report, penned Kathryn Rees, assistant director of strategy and transformation, outlines a new ways to “empower and engage” residents.

“Wigan Council and our partners hold a wide range of data about the borough which is used to shape decision making and drive the transformation of public services,” states the report.

“However, this data is one of our key assets but is not always accessible to residents and communities.

“Technology is providing tools and solutions to make data more accessible to the mainstream, something everyone can easily discover and use from any device, anywhere and at any time.

“This is ultimately providing some exciting new opportunities to empower and engage residents in the workings of local government.”

“The new approach will include publishing previously unseen insight and building ‘community sourced data’, where residents help gather information on a variety of issues in the borough, a practice known as ‘crowdsourcing’.

“The current financial pressures facing local government means that local councils need to think creatively in order to realise new data streams,” the report continues.

“Crowdsourcing allows organisations to collect substantial amounts of data for free through non-expert volunteers. Wigan will soon begin to crowdsource data, albeit in a controlled way through applications to identify invasive species across the borough.”