Guest Post by: Ed Thompson

Yesterday I went to a Social Media Week event hosted by the Central Office of Information (COI) that focused on data.gov.uk.

Data.gov.uk is a programme that was initiated under Gordon Brown’s tenure of Labour leadership and now continues on in a slightly slimmed down version under the coalition government.

The basic idea is that different parts of government, at local and national level, share relevant data they produce with the public. It’s a great idea because it encourages departments to be open and honest, providing the British people with access to the data that they essentially “own”.

Learnings so far:

  • They’ve realised that it’s not an IT project, but a data project. It sounds obvious, but all the early problems were IT related; they soon realised they needed to focus on the data itself.
  • They established public data principles, helping them publish the data in ways people can use it, like using infographics and standard data formats which can be manipulated in Excel. (Click on the infographic above or here to see it enlarged).
  • They learned they need basic data standards across government organisations.
  • They learned that with programmes like this, it’s best to get something out, event if it’s a rough version of what it will eventually become, and then improve it as time goes by. This helps get people engaged in the project early on.

How is the project using social media?

  • They currently have several blogs, with sharing functionality and comments etc.
  • There is a wiki for data.gov.uk where people can contribute and learn about the programme.
  • There is an active community engaged around the programme, many of whom are developers and data analysts .
  • They have realised there are distinct audiences they need to communicate with through social media and that there are different best practices for each. For example, they know that all the developers are on twitter and communicate in forums.

For those interested in social, especially it’s applications around government, probably the most exciting news is that the Data.gov.uk programme has been something of a pioneer in government for trialing the ways social might impact government activity.

It’s become a good hub for testing ideas and working out best practice, and is leading the way in taking social into other parts of government.

Original Post: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/02/case-study-data-gov-uk/

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