Devon County Council are at the beginning of an open data journey, working together with partners to use the power of existing available data about the county and open up new data sources.
Open data gives opportunities to Devon citizens and businesses to be able gain a greater understanding of the county, see new patterns and providing the ability to link data together to make new discoveries. This has the potential to encourage enterprise and new ways of service provision in difficult financial times.
Devon is supporting the development of a wider Open Data Forum in Devon to bring together the widest possible range of public and private sector data to inform and inspire its citizens and businesses. Rewired State’s National Hack The Government will be the first time that some datasets are available and offers a platform to share ideas and knowledge and continue the open data debate.
Kevin Lewis, a front-end web developer and UX designer from Berkshire, over the last three years, Kevin has been part of the Rewired State community and is now working as part of the Rewired State team.
1. Highways Innovation
Devon has the most extensive road network of any English local authority with
12,820 kilometres [nearly 8,000 miles] of highways. The Highways and Traffic
Management Group delivers a broad range of front line services that monitor and
maintains this network. The highway maintenance service is revenue funded and is
required to maintain roads, pavements, footways, bridges and culverts etc. which
make up the highway network.
Your challenge is to develop an application to discover something new about
Devon’s highways. For example you could pull together data related to hospital
admissions and falls on the highway, making a case for public health funding. You
could also look at hydrocast catchment data cross referenced with the highway
network and settlements to pull together a highway flood risk map.
2. Healthy Communities, community connections and intelligence
We all need to manage our own health as individuals, and we live in communities
that may have particular health challenges e.g. high rates of dementia, obesity or
mental health problems.
Your challenge is to either develop an application to bring people together and
enable them to better manage their health or find an innovative way to brief
councilors, commissioners and/or practitioners with intelligence on the health of or
the community connections available in their area.
For example it could help to raise awareness of particular health issues in the
community; link information sources; stimulate new activities; or enable people to
make full use of what the local library can offer by incorporating it into your own
This could draw upon data from a wide variety of sources. For example public health
data including the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, or other resources such as the
Devon Community Directory and data from other Devon partners and agencies. It
may draw upon your own reading or listening preferences to generate choices from
library stock information, supplementing other sources and what you hold personally.
Similarly it could alert you to activities at the local library that match your own needs
Select any issue that is of social concern. Examples might include youth
unemployment, underage pregnancy or alcohol abuse, which persist despite much
public investment and statutory intervention.
You challenge is to design a possible application to bring together all those affected
by your chosen issue, and find and apply new solutions.
Are there any sources of information that would be helpful, but are not currently
Share your ideas for projects here
Making more use of Devon’s data -
Like most local authorities, Devon County Council is going through a period of rapid change
– some of that is about cutting back services in the current period of austerity, but it is also
about doing things differently. In particular, the relationship between the council and ‘the
public’ is changing. In the past, County Councils were principally direct providers of services
– school education, roads, social care for the elderly, child protection, trading standards and
libraries, amongst other things. Increasingly, we are looking to commission services from
others, in the private, voluntary and social enterprise sectors, and to try to pass more decision
making to local communities.
Up to now, our data have been used to help our own decision making, and that’s often
been done quite deliberately in silos. More community based decision making and the
unaffordability of providing the same service everywhere, though, means that the way
different services are provided in the same location matters far more. We hold much
information that is, in effect, the market intelligence for a big service provider; now we need
to turn that into market intelligence for communities and business. We can only do that by
understanding needs, both for the type of information and how it can be presented.
Examples of the sort of data we hold include:
Data about communities:
Our ‘live’ community web pages use XML to mash up statistical data:
Other, more manually produced profiles show other data:
We also hold the Devon Community Directory of local groups and services at: http://
Data about ourselves
Like other local authorities, we publish data about ourselves according to the government
code of practice:
We also hold, but do not yet publish other information from our administrative systems, for
• Finance data from ‘Finest’ are exported as .csv files and imported into a data
• Data on personal budgets for social care are also held in a data warehouse
• Data on gullies and inspections are exported from our highway maintenance system
as XML, and many other datasets could also be extracted
• Comments, complaints and enquiries to our call centre are logged, but underused.
Put together, such information could, in principle, be of huge benefit to businesses or
community groups looking to fill the gap as local authority services are cut.
How can this information be best combined, analysed and presented for this purpose?
Some sample links and data sources
The Nomis data come via their API – more details can be found at http://www.nomisweb.co.uk/api/v01/help. For example https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/api/v01/dataset/NM_608_1.data.json?geography=1249921944&date=latest&rural_urban=0&cell=MAKE|White|1…4&measures=20100 provides JSON data from the census for the number of white people in one of the lower super output areas in East Devon. You can use the advanced query tool on nomisweb.co.uk to build the URLs, but I think you need to be logged in.
There is also the Neighbourhood Statistics data exchange API – http://
http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/Info.do?page=nde.htm. This doesn’t
have a nice way to build the URLs so you need to use the discovery options to find variables
and then use the delivery option to get the data.
House price data are available from the Land Registry as either monthly CSV files or as
linked data – I’m still having trouble writing SPARQL queries though. And there is lots more
linked data available from the opendatacommunities.org website – this is mainly DCLG data.
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Pip Tucker, Head of Insight and Impact, Devon County Council
Pip’s role at Devon County Council within the corporate policy unit, looks at the state of the county, the messages coming from residents, the government and other bodies to ensure that the council is well placed to respond to changing circumstances.
Michael Saunby, Met Office
Software developer for climate analysis at the UK Met Office, and one of Exeter’s 50 most influential people.
Andrew W. Ellis, Founder, Like Minds
Involved in digital since founding one of the first digital agencies, Eyetoeye in 1994, currently a partner in The Organic Agency in Exeter http://theorganicagency.comand founded the global thought leadership platform, Like Minds http://wearelikeminds.com in 2009.
Saturday 8th March
9.30 – breakfast and sign up to barcamp talks
10.00 – Welcome
10.30 – Introductions
11.00 – Informal talks (these will be streamed)
12.30 – Lunch
15.00 – Stand up: Ideas so far
18.30 – Dinner
(overnight coding TBC)
Sunday 9th March
9.30 – Breakfast
12.30 – Lunch
Please add your hacks to the Exeter Hacks App by 1pm (password will be provided)
16.30 – Show and Tell
18.30 – Winners announced and Close