Wednesday 25 September 2013

Open up data about justice

Very recently the government published the Shakespeare Review on open data. I have recently been told that:
The government, in response to the Shakespeare Review of Public Sector Information, has committed itself to publishing a core reference dataset, listing unpublished datasets together with a schedule of release. Government departments have been going through a process of identifying the data they hold and prioritising their release.
What I am given to understand is that we should all be telling the Government, right now, that particular datasets need to be released.
As a lawyer, I am particularly interested in information about the workings of the court system. does not appear to allow me to search for unpublished datasets belonging to the court service only, but it does allow me to pull up unpublished datasets for the Ministry of Justice.
I am not entirely sure what is there or how useful it might be. For example there is a case management system called caseman that is used by county courts. I suspect that there is a lot of potential in opening up that dataset, but it is hard to tell without more information. 
There is even a dataset described as:

Tribunals Service Case Management systems including: ARIA, ETHOS (and Caseflow), GAPs 2, MARTHA, CICA and a set of SQL and Access based systems, and manual case records.

I have told the MOJ that they might as well have described this as "stuff" for all it really helps me. But it is quite possible there is much of interest there too.

Each dataset allows (signed up users) to give feedback on release of the data. Feedback is supposed to be focussed particularly on economic and social growth - nothing persuades governments like "if you release this dataset, there will be a £100M growth in GDP".

Sadly, to date, almost all the interesting datasets have attracted no comments at all. I wonder whether this is to do with lack of publicity or whether people (like me) feel that it is difficult to make concrete comments on datasets about which they know nothing. If any reader of this blog feels strongly about open data, can I invite you to give feedback on some (or all) of these datasets.

Note: I have blogged elsewhere on this topic already with a slightly different emphasis.

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