Aberdeen North on Democratic Dashboard
Aberdeen North on Democratic Dashboard

Have you seen Democratic Dashboard? You really should take a look.

This site,  set up by the Democratic Audit based in the LSE, has one simple aim: ” … to promote engagement in the electoral process by making an array of information on elections and constituencies more accessible than previously.”

To do that it draws on a wide set of data for the whole of the mainland UK  (principally using open data as far as I can tell). It collates those  and constructs a unified dashboard which allows you to look at any single constituency and visualise a range of different socio-economic and political factors for that area.

These include:

  • the results of local, devolved, UK and European parliamentary elections for about the last decade,
  • the last 5 MPS
  • Election 2015 candidates (using YourNextMP data)
  • Polling Forecasts
  • Deprivation / inequality
  • Campaign Spending
  • Voter Power Index
  • Party Spending and donations
  • Details demographic profile of the constituency

This is a very impressive piece of work. A nation-wide site which allows you to drill down to local level,  understand local factors – and make comparisons – is a very powerful thing.

I am reminded of two other sites which set out to do something similar.

The first is the work that Swirrl did with the Scottish Government on the Scottish Indices on Multiple Deprivation (which is an exemplar in how Linked Open Data can be used). The other is  Openly Local which sought to make Local Government more transparent and was, in my view, an idea quite far ahead of its time. It pulled (and scraped) a whole range of data for every UK council to provide detailed local overviews for each authority and its area.

Aberdeen City Council on Openly Local
Aberdeen City Council on Openly Local

When Openly Local was set up, mid-2009,  there were very few councils making their data available openly. In fact, when work stopped on the site in late 2013 there were still less than 25% of councils with any valid open data.

That has changed in the last 18 months or so. We’re now a a tipping point. Most councils  are now providing open data, I believe.

So, a site such as Openly Local would make great sense – if it could provide a service such as the Democratic Dashboard with much more visualisation and less textual content. (It would also provide evidence that my assertion that most are provide OD is either true or false!).

It would benefit hugely from a standard data model – and range of data feeds from each – so that we can compare from council with council,  and ward with ward, on key demographic, economic or social data.

Not having such a site means making meaningful data comparisons is difficult – and a lack of standardisation erodes confidence in the act of comparing.

When I saw the Democratic Dashboard today I was immediately reminded of the value of Openly Local. I tweeted at Chris Taggart OL’s founder and founder and discovered the site will imminently be shut down unless anyone wants to take it on.

Oh, the irony!

Ian

Digging down into Local Data – Openly Local, Democratic Dashboard and more
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