The London Datastore is a website created by the Greater London Authority (GLA) to display as much of the data that they hold relating to London as is possible. This is being done to give transparency and accountability to public services with the ultimate aim of improving them. The London Datastore was set up to give citizens open access to data held by the GLA and other organisations, and let them use it for any purpose, free of charge. The London Datastore encourages users to take the raw data and transform it into websites or applications in order to make it more useful and easy to understand. Channel 4 is also encouraging such innovation by offering up to £200,000 from its 4ip fund to individuals or companies who can devise the best ways of harnessing the data.
The London Datastore was launched in 2010 by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who is ultimately responsible for the site. The Project Team was led by Mark Roberts, GLA Executive Director of Secretariat. London is the first UK city to have its own Datastore; several US cities already have one, including Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco. The launch involved a live linkup to President Obama's Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, who led the US Government project, 'data.gov' that opened up previously unpublished government data and made it available on the web. The British government is working on a similar site, data.gov.uk, in collaboration with worldwide web innovator Tim Berners-Lee, who is helping the civil service to unify the vast amount of datasets generated inside government.
The main interface on the London Datastore website is the London Dashboard, which is described as a window on London's public services. It displays data in the form of tiles which show selected statistics, with either an up or down arrow, coloured green or red to indicate if it is a positive statistic or a negative one. For example, the Transport tile displays 'Lost Customer Hours (Tube), down 25% on same quarter last year', displayed with a down arrow, coloured green to show a positive result, while the Jobs & Economy tile shows 'Total Workforce Jobs, down 5,000 since last quarter (-0.1%)', with a down arrow, this time coloured red to indicate a disappointing result. There are nine tiles on the London Dashboard: Jobs & Economy, Transport, Environment, Policing & Crime, Fire & Rescue, Communities, Housing, Health and Tourism. If a more detailed analysis is required, further information can be accessed by clicking on the tile. Clicking on the Jobs & Economy tile, for example, brings up a page with a variety of statistics and graphs, including Total Workforce Jobs, Unemployment, Apprenticeships, GLA Employment Projections, and NEETS. The page also includes links to relevant data on other sites, and internal Datastore links.
The data-sets on the website have been provided by the GLA and its four functional bodies: Transport for London, London Development Agency, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and the Metropolitan Police Service. Ten London boroughs have provided data, and many other relevant organisations have contributed, all of which are displayed on the site in a tag cloud. There is a catalogue which is available to download in CSV format, with an automated process, designed by the GLA Information Technology Unit, to export content from the MySQL database that powers the Datastore site. The catalogue file is updated daily.
Another part of the site is devoted to the 2011 Census. The Census Information Scheme, working within the GLA, gives a London-specific analysis of Census statistics from the GLA, its functional bodies and the 33 London Boroughs. The Census can be explored in various ways: by themes, tools, or data and there are links to news, historical tables and a summary. Inspirational Uses is a page that features applications and visualisations which have been created from the data provided by the GLA and uploaded by users for others to share. These submissions are displayed in date order, with the option to vote or comment on them.
The site had around 50 sets of data on its start-up in 2010, with plans to increase that to 200 or more. The website of the London Skills & Employment Observatory, which was set up to provide data on the London labour market, was closed in March 2013 and some of its content was moved to the London Datastore, where it will be continually updated.
The London Datastore can be found at http://data.london.gov.uk, on Google Groups and on Twitter @londondatastore and @glaintelligence.