ONS embraces true open data agenda by tearing down registration wall

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Web users’ desire for high speed access to digital services means that they are no longer willing to tolerate registration walls, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

ONS geography policy and research manager Ian Coady cited his experience helping create the Open Geography Portal as proof of the change in UK web user behaviour during an interview with V3.

“We ran a consultation to start to understand Open Geography Portal customers. One of the early responses we had was that people don’t want to register to download data,” he said.

“They just want to get it, and feel if you have to register it’s not open data. Because of this we removed registration requirements from the portal so people could just get straight into it.”

The Open Geography Portal initiative was launched by the ONS in 2013, designed to offer freely accessible digital geographic data, mapping information and aerial imagery.

Coady said the shift is due to efforts by the UK government to increase the nation’s digital awareness.

“I think the requirement has been a long-standing one, but thanks to the moves by the government and Cabinet Office and public sector, there’s much more awareness about what open data is and more desire for it,” he said.

Coady added that the ONS has begun working to ensure that more of its data services follow a similar pattern.

“People want to be able to get data without any licensing restrictions. Because of this we’ve taken a similar policy with several services regarding the Census survey making sure its actually open data,” he said.

“This makes it more difficult for us as it means we don’t get the analytics and can’t know who has accessed the data, but it means we’re contributing more to open data in the true sense of the word.”

Coady said the ONS is also working to use new technologies like smartphones and tablets to increase the number of people accessing its services.

“Nowadays in any decision making process we go in knowing we have to be able to disseminate data via a variety of platforms to get it to reach people,” he said.

Increasing the amount of open data available to the public has been an ongoing goal of the UK government, which announced plans in February to invest £1.5m in public sector open data initiatives.

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12 June 2014 | 6:30 am – Source: v3.co.uk
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