Open data set to transform Yorkshire cities with launch of data mills’

A new open-data platform has launched in Leeds 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, and has already helped a Yorkshire creative consortium secure Nesta funding to rollout a second data mill in York in the autumn.

The project is believed to be the first platform in the country to bring together open data information from a range of 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.

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The initiative is led by open-data expert Mark Barrett, who previously worked for the NHS and was recently recognised as one of the 50 most innovative people in healthcare by the Health Service Journal for creating GP Ratings, the first open-data app to reach number one in the iTunes chart.

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

Following the government’s open-data whitepaper in 2012, which encouraged local authorities to publish open-data sets, Leeds City Council has published over 60 in collaboration with Leeds Data Mill, many of which have never been seen before.

Data sets include ten years of hourly footfall in Leeds city centre; every fine issued to vehicles for unauthorised use of bus lanes or illegally parked; six years of completed road works; five years of completed planning applications; and road traffic accidents since 2009.

It is hoped that by autumn 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.

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.

‘Health in Numbers’ will take place on Thursday 3 July  at Leeds Open Data Institute as part of Yorkshire’s International Business Festival, offering health care practitioners the chance to better understand health care data and the opportunities that it presents.

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Leeds Data Mill is also currently running a three-month residency programme in collaboration with the Open Data Institute in Leeds and WetGenes, a group of independent game developers, to create a Leeds Art Crawl gaming app using open data from the city’s sports and culture directorate.

Leeds-based boutique media company Hebe Media, supported by the Leeds Data Mill, has recently become one of four UK companies to win Nesta and the Technology Strategy Board’s Destination Local Demonstrators competition for funding; securing a share of the £2.4 million fund that aims to demonstrate the potential of ‘hyperlocal’ media technologies to serve communities across the UK.

Critical to the success of the project will be the fusion of Hebe’s services with a new York Data Mill which, it is hoped, will be the first in a nationwide rollout of data-mill franchises across the UK.


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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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