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Open Data is set to transform the city as Leeds Data Mill is launched

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A ground-breaking new open data platform – Leeds Data Mill – has launched in Leeds, just days after Chancellor George Osbourne announced a new £42m fund to help make the UK a world leader in big data and algorithm research.

With backing from the Cabinet Office’s Release of Data Fund and Leeds City Council, Leeds Data Mill aims to kick start a new generation of data-driven cities and businesses.

The Leeds Data Mill project is believed to be the first platform in the country to bring together open data information from multiple sectors across the city, uniting public, private, and third sector data.

By collecting open data from multiple sources in a single website, Leeds Data Mill enables people and organisations to explore the different complex relationships between the city’s services and businesses, offering a greater insight into the workings of the city than ever before.

Leeds Data Mill is led by Open Data expert Mark Barrett, a passionate advocate for the transformative power of local data.

Mr Barrett previously worked for the NHS and was recently recognised as one of the “50 most innovative people in healthcare” by the Health Service Journal following his creation “GP Ratings”, the first open data app to reach number one in the iTunes chart.

Mr Barrett said:

“Having worked on national datasets for the past five years, it struck me that a significant change in the Open Data movement would happen at a local level, where people can relate to information about their city.

“By bringing data together from across Leeds, from multiple sectors, we have created something that can be used by anyone to help improve the city.”

A grant awarded from the Cabinet Office’s Release of Data Fund has enabled the launch of 54 open data sets by the platform’s launch – 35 of which have never been seen before.

It is hoped that by summer 2014 over 100 different open data sets will be available to download by the public, and will be of special interest to anyone who is interested in defining ideas, conceiving solutions and prototyping services that can improve the quality of life in Leeds.

Heather Savory, chair of the Open Data User Group (ODUG) at the Cabinet Office, said:

“Leeds Data Mill was one of the projects selected in the first tranche of funding from the Release of Data Fund (www.gov.uk/government/news/15-million-funding-to-open-up-public-data).

“This funding round was built on the understanding ODUG has gleaned from its engagement across the data community and from Demand Led Open Data, providing an improved perspective on how to accelerate the use of Open Data to solve some of the key changes which need to be made in our communities and for our nation.

“Bringing Open Data to bear for the benefit of our Smart Cities is a key theme. The funding for the Leeds Data Mill underscores the benefits which can be realised and I am delighted to see the acceleration already being created in Smart City Leeds.

I hope that public sector data holders and the Government will see this as tangible evidence that, when the data and the resources are made available, tangible results can be driven out of the Open Data agenda very rapidly.”

Following the Government’s open data White Paper (2012) which encouraged local authorities to publish open data sets, Leeds City Council has worked in collaboration with Leeds Data Mill to publish 50 open data sets on the Leeds Data Mill platform to date.

Datasets include Leeds City Centre footfall data for the past ten years by the hour, every fine issued for unauthorised vehicles being in bus lanes, six years of information on every completed roadwork across the city of Leeds, fines issued for unauthorised parked vehicles in on-street locations, completed planning applications for the past 5 years, road traffic accidents since 2009, and many more.

Yorkshire Water is the first private sector company to collaborate with Leeds Data Mill and has so far released four data sets, including an information feed for Yorkshire Water reservoirs and a current incident feed.

Kirstin Hutchinson, data governance manager at Yorkshire Water, said:

“We are keen explore the possibilities that arise with the Open Data community in the region and we look forward to working with Leeds Data Mill to start to release some of our data and see how this can be used to create new insight and how it can be used with other data to create a rich picture of the local area.”

More partnerships are in the pipeline, with West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority Metro recently pledging its involvement with the scheme.

Leeds Data Mill provides private sector organisations with an opportunity to accelerate their learning in the use of data to create a competitive advantage.

Following the success of two pilot events run by Leeds Data Mill, to encourage local organisations and citizens to engage with the platform and understand the potential power of open data, further events are planned to bring sectors together to become part of the Open Data movement within the city.

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Mark Barrett

 

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