Headlines: April 22nd, 2010

Local authorities are being encouraged to join a drive to make local election results readily available online. The call has come from Socitm and the Local Government Association both of which are backing the Open Election Data Project.

They have issued a note explaining the benefits of making election data more open. Socitm says it has been written in plain English for those people who are generally put off by technical talk. It suggests that authorities interested in the project should talk to their web manager about implementation. It also details the support avaiable through the Open Election Data Project and the Socitm-facilitated Open Election Data community in the IDeA Communities of Practice.

Socitm and the LGA say there is no freely available national database of local election results simply because compiling one would be a laborious manual job involving finding and cutting and pasting information from 433 different councils. That has meant the task has been left to consultants and others who charge for their work.

The Project wants local authorities to publish election results on their own websites but in a particular way so collecting the information for re-use can be automated. That would mean that at minimal cost and effort citizens, politicians, news media, academics and think tanks could compile and present their own results database and analyse the information in different ways. They could also use the information with other data, and publish their findings.

The two organisations say this is a new venture and there will be new technical challenges and complications where councils have outsourced their websites but the project will put councils at the forefront of the new drive for openness and transparency.