Data.gov.uk – a new handy tool for journalists hunting data

One of the more infuriating aspects of covering politics, for me, was the way different government departments handled the release of data which could potentially make good, local news stories.

Each government department seemed to be determined to hide the information away in a different place – and only the old Department for Education and Skills made information remotely accessible.

So the launch of data.gov.uk tomorrow should be music to the ears of journalists.

In short, it’s part of a government drive to make the data it holds more accessible.

The site has been running in Beta for a while now, enabling those with the skills to make applications from the data to give the information a go.

According to the Government, around 3,000 datasets are already accessible via data.gov.uk. Most of the time, it pushes you to the government website which hosts the information already – a move which in itself is very good news for journalists.

A quick search on there tonight pointed me in the direction of all sorts of data which could potentially make interesting stories.

And while there are already some interesting uses emerging – such as this visualisation of house prices over time, itself a potential news story for regional journalists (don’t forget to credit the source!) – at most basic, it’s a great way to spot news stories and find data.

For hyperlocal sites, that could mean getting information which is of interest to the local area – many of the datasets go down to local council level – which for journalists in the mainstream media, it’s a chance to get  a better look at the figures which often are only released when accompanied with a press release.

And keeping an eye on the list of developed apps – click here – is also worth doing.

Labour may have many faults, but the Freedom of Information Act and now this development show that someone, somewhere inside government is determined to make it easier to find information.

ReadWriteWeb has more information here

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