UK Open Data for the Web – data.gov.uk

Yesterday Tim Berners-Lee, the "inventor of the web", and professor Nigel Shadbolt released data.gov.uk, a central archive of all the public information of the UK commissioned by the UK government. Like its counterparts in the US, Australia and New Zealand, the site is an amazing resource for mashups, research and general information.

data.gov.uk release presentation

With Tim Berners-Lee on board, data.gov.uk was built around open standards and based around the principles of the Semantic Web pioneered by him years ago. Hardly surprising therefore that the main search technology is SPARQL.

In addition to the data sources, the UK data site also acts as a showcase for applications built with the data and invites people to submit ideas of what data should be offered. Hopefully all of these channels will see a lot of use in the time to come.

I was lucky to be asked to deliver one of the applications to be showcased at the event. UK House Prices uses the Median House Prices Dataset together with the Nestoria API (via YQL) to allow you to compare and find houses in the UK (just England and Wales actually, as the data for Scotland and Northern Ireland is still missing):

As you can see in the screencast, the demo app makes heavy use of the Yahoo User Interface Library. I pointed out to the media audience that most of the work consisted of converting the data, enriching it with Geo information using the Yahoo Geo APIs and converting it to easily usable formats (JSON, actually). Building the interface was easy, as I used the example sites for YUI AutoComplete, YUI Slider, and the YUI grids builder to build the layout of the page. There is a more detailed "making of" article available on my blog.

The application is also available as a YAP application to add to the Yahoo homepage and I will release the source (without the data) once I've cleaned it up and documented it.

I will be talking to the government about making the data available as YQL tables over the next few months to make it even easier for you to play with UK information.

Speaking of making it easier: The Guardian, who also hosted the event, showed just how quick they can be in building incredibly useful interfaces. The World Government Data search interface allows you now to search all the datasets of the different countries at once and get the information without having to visit all of them individually.

This is a massive step for the UK government and the web of data, and I for one am terribly happy having been a part of the start of it. We will see a lot of good coming out of this.

Chris Heilmann
Yahoo Developer Network