Transparency Agenda in the Local Government

During the pre-election frenzy in the UK, all political parties are making commitments regarding the efficiencies and savings that can be achieved across UK public sector. The news commentators love it - this provides them with fantastic opportunity to feed more editorial content by reporting and analysing the numbers. For the citizen however, it is very difficult to fathom exactly what is being spent on what. There is a huge amount of reports, updates and web materials available, but all of it is far from real time, formatted in a way that helps the published, not the reader. More importantly, the juicy bits still need to be requested via Freedom of Information requests, which are ad-hoc, inefficient for both the citizen and the government, require extra resource, and may or may not be free.

Yet, greater transparency is not only desirable, but essential if the election manifestos are to be believed. As a voter, I am keen to see which party is sincere about providing citizens with true access to the data that sits across hundreds of internal systems (limited by regulation and privacy of course).

The cloud provides a platform for an ideal solution to this problem: a Total Transparency Portal. Simply put, it’s an enterprise mash-up that can collect data feeds from a variety of sources, interpret and analyse it using sophisticated analytics, and publish the information in a variety of formats from text to KPIs and other visualisations. Indeed it would also allow any citizen to use the raw data to create their own analyses. Information about public procurements, case resolution statistics, load statistics, power usage, overall spend, employment and headcount within the council and each organisation / department, ICT services, performance and costs and many other data points can all be made available to the public in an efficient, real time (where possible) manner.

Arcus has been developing this application for some time, based on several popular open source platforms.  Major features include:

  • An advanced integration layer that can incorporate information from a large number of heterogeneous data sources including everything from relational databases to web services to line of business systems
  • A complete analytics platform that allows users in the council to analyse the collected data and publish the results in the form of highly visual dashboards
  • The ability to make this data available both to the public and to partners and other government organisations both as raw data and as XML through web services for the incorporation into other applications
  • Sophisticated role-based security model
  • Fully cloud hosted

Watch this space for links once it is deployed at our customer's site, as well as whether it will make a real difference to the way general public can access government information.