Reducing work<ness with linked data

The OpenGovIntelligence project

Trafford Council is one of six public sector agencies from across Europe that are actively involved in the OpenGovIntelligence project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The OpenGovIntelligence project promotes the co-creative design and implementation of public service delivery. Rather than adopting a traditional top-down approach it seeks the active participation of citizens in the design and implementation of public services. Specifically the project requires public sector agencies and citizens to co-design a tool that improves access to linked open data.

Datasets that are ‘linked’ are referenceable on the Web with unique IDs known as Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) which plug them into a network of other referenceable datasets. For example, Trafford has an Ordnance Survey identifier with several properties including a GSS code which exposes a wealth of related statistical information.

Linked data have a 5-star openness rating because their relatedness increases the discoverability of other datasets. This goes back to the fundamental principle of the web:

We should work toward a universal linked information system… The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards.
- Berners-Lee, 1989

The Trafford pilot

The Trafford Data Lab collaborated with JobCentre Plus managers from Stretford to co-develop a web application that allows local Department for Work and Pensions teams and Council leads from across Greater Manchester to visualise linked open statistical data on worklessness. By improving access to these data the app will help to inform the targeting of JobCentre Plus services to areas of need.

A workshop involving JobCentre Managers, Trafford Data Lab, Swirrl and Trafford Council leads for worklessness was held in October 2017 to define the user requirements for the app. Attendees requested an app that allowed users to interact with the data both spatially and temporally.

Shiny

The Trafford Data Lab used Shiny to develop the web application. Shiny is an R package developed by RStudio that allows R programmers to develop interactive web applications without web development skills in HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Shiny apps remain extensible if you possess web development skills and can be created quickly allowing developers to rapidly iterate between versions.

Map output of Shiny app
Chart and table output of Shiny app

The other advantage of using R (and Shiny) to develop the app is that it is an open source programming language. The app’s source code is stored on GitHub ready for others to fork and adapt for their own purposes.

User testing

Two user testing sessions were run with JobCentre Plus Managers in November and December 2017 to gather feedback on iterations of the app. The capability to interrogate geospatial data by local authority and the inclusion of further datasets were key additional requirements.

The latest iteration of the app is currently being tested by JobCentre Managers and Council leads for worklessness from across Greater Manchester.

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