How easy is it for voters in Wales to find out where to vote?

Gorsaf bleidleisio ward Canol Aberystwyth by Dogfael used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Where do I vote?

A small social enterprise called Democracy Club develops tools to make it easier for UK citizens to exercise their vote effectively. One of these tools is “Where do I vote?” Give it your postcode and it tells you which polling station you should go to. Where do I vote? is apparently one of the most Googled terms on UK election days. They have an elegant tool but they need the information on which addresses vote at which polling station. In Wales this information is held by local councils. Democracy Club asked all Welsh local councils to provide this data in time for the General Election in 2017.

 How did Welsh local authorities do?

 
Fourteen councils provided data (green in the map), eight councils did not (red in the map). The same data is in a table below. There were some problems with the Cardiff City Council data and a few specific areas of other councils.
 
Overall the 92,000 searches of WhereDoIVote? made for Welsh postcodes, 51,000 resulted in people being told their polling station. Which is nice for 51,000 voters but disappointing for the 41,000 people who didn’t get a result.
 

Litmus test

This is a good litmus test for how local authorities approach open data because:

  • Democracy Club is after a specific dataset, they understand the data and can help with any questions council staff might have (they make it easy for the councils)
  • if the council provides the data it will directly benefit their citizens
  • the council definitely holds the data (it needs it to send out the polling cards that so many people apparently mislay by polling day)

So if councils can’t give Democracy Club this data, it is a signal that they have quite a long way to go in understanding the power of opening datasets. We’re interested in developing a scorecard for Welsh local authorities in terms of open data. Should we include providing this data to Democracy Club in that scorecard do you think?

The data as a table

Council name All searches Found polling station Red or green in map
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council 1719 1563 Green
Bridgend County Borough Council 3698 0 Red
Caerphilly County Borough Council 4716 0 Red
Carmarthenshire County Council 4074 0 Red
Ceredigion County Council 1935 1848 Green
City of Cardiff Council 18122 11714 Green
Conwy County Borough Council 2732 2730 Green
Denbighshire County Borough Council 2447 2392 Green
Flintshire County Council 4503 0 Red
Gwynedd Council 2336 2312 Green
Isle of Anglesey County Council 1679 0 Red
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council 1485 1477 Green
Monmouthshire County Council 2101 2101 Green
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council 4771 4740 Green
Newport City Council 6306 0 Red
Pembrokeshire County Council 1887 1887 Green
Powys County Council 1789 0 Red
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council 7773 0 Red
Swansea County Council 8851 8718 Green
Torfaen County Borough Council 2894 2818 Green
Vale of Glamorgan Council 3351 3350 Green
Wrexham County Borough Council 3259 3237 Green

The people of Wales should be able to benefit from open data in Welsh procurement

Colour photo of a fruit and veg stall. To the right a woman is examining the produce.
Fruit and Veg Stall by Nanimo

Wales has a National Procurement Service (NPS) which is there

“to enable the Welsh public sector to collaborate more closely in procuring goods and services”.

The NPS is in the midst of supplier engagement on a new framework to cover digital services. Given the existing UK frameworks for digital services this may or may not be a good idea. NPS feels the UK frameworks don’t address language issues and other requirements particular to Wales

The Welsh Government is “Committed to Open Data” according to its Open Data Plan. As far as we can see the NPS has no open data plan and the work on the digital framework is not considering the government’s open data plan at all.

This is a pity because open data and procurement are perfect partners. Open data can drive efficiency and transparency in procurement processes as well as having wider benefits.

A fit for purpose procurement process should address open data at least in the following areas:

  • performance against contract targets
    Suppliers should be required to publish their performance as open data. And the performance of previous suppliers should be published as open data. This will help customers and suppliers understand which are the challenging parts of the contracts and should lead to improved performance over time.
  • administrative (exhaust) data
    In order to deliver a service, lots of data has to be collected and used. This data is typically locked in the systems of suppliers but if it is published as open data has potentially high economic value.
  • reference data
    In order to deliver a service, a supplier may need to collect data for reference (to provide IT support a supplier will need to know where local authority buildings are). Ideally suppliers should use existing open sources of this data and they should certainly publish reference data that they create in the contract.
  • infrastructure data
    Many contracts let by public bodies in Wales have as their primary purpose the creation of data or information. These datasets should be open by default and published to a high standard.

Our colleagues in ODI headquarters have published a guide to open data and procurement. This is aimed at English and UK public bodies but its principles hold true for Wales.

We really shouldn’t be having to have this conversation in Wales. We should be talking about how quickly we can move the open data to five star status. We should be talking about what the open data tells us about public services in Wales. We should be using the open data to help us understand the impact on the wellbeing of future generations.

Let’s hope we can start having those conversations soon.

The Cambrian News helps readers understand the attendance of their councillors

We’d like to highlight a nice piece of data journalism from Ceredigion.

Cambrian News reporter Caleb Spencer wanted to make the information on councillors’ attendance at meetings more accessible to his readers. He created a visualisation in CartoDB which breaks the information down by ward.

The full article How does your councillor’s attendance record stack up? was published on The Cambrian News

Who owns our data infrastructure?

Data is the raw material that will help us meet 21st century challenges: to reduce friction in our economy, increase our sustainability and create opportunities to innovate.

Our data infrastructure is as important as our physical infrastructure.

A strong data infrastructure will increase interoperability and collaboration, efficiency and productivity in public and private sectors, nationally and internationally.

Having the right conditions for data will benefit everyone. It will reduce transaction costs, grow supply chains and inform citizens. A coherent data infrastructure should be a baseline condition for a healthy, progressive society, and a competitive global economy.

In this paper we explore the question “who owns our data infrastructure – globally, nationally and locally?” We look at what data ownership looks like and what we can expect from those that manage data that is fundamental to a functioning society.

What do you think?

We’re interested in your feedback. You could:

  • write a blogpost and share the link with us, or pitch it for the ODI website
  • raise the issue in your local data networks and tell us how it is received
  • tell us which questions about data infrastructures should be addressed first

You can email policy@theodi.org or tweet us at @ODIHQ.

What are ODI Nodes: Creating a global network

The ODI Nodes are an important part of our global network. The last year has seen significant growth: we have welcomed Rio, Devon, Queensland and Athens to the community; our first group of nodes have become ODI registered trainers; our community of nodes have collaborated with us to deliver global projects; and the network is starting to develop commercial products.

This year we are introducing a framework of core activities for our nodes. Our ambition is to scale our existing business models – creating repeatable products and activities – to ensure nodes deliver consistent quality across the network. We have worked closely with our community over the past year and identified the key activities they will develop. The new focus will involve two categories of ODI Nodes:

  •   Network nodes – running meetups, holding meetings, building an individual membership network
    *   Learning nodes – running courses taught by an accredited trainer to teach local businesses and governments about how to work with open data

Starting the node network

The Open Data Institute (ODI HQ) opened in 2012 to catalyse open data culture in the UK. By 2013, we had received an overwhelming response from international organisations, many of which wanted to set up a local ODI in their own country, city or area. As a response, we collaborated with this community and built the ODI Node network, focussed on creating global impact from open data.

This table shows the focus of each node, for 2015:

Our ODI Node network is demonstrating how open data is helping to solve problems around the world. They are our local partners of choice for innovation projects and each will facilitate networking activities and learning opportunities within their local communities.