The West Midlands Open Data Forum is an idea that has been initiated by Digital Birmingham. It has a mission

“To promote the release, re-use and integration of open data to benefit communities, businesses and public services in the West Midlands area.”

I was asked to join its steering group a few months ago and have attended three of its meetings so far. Here we have mostly been discussing the Terms of Reference for the group, commenting upon proposals for a Birmingham Open Data Platform and planning how the current steering group will support the new forum to host quarterly events that “bring together developer, activist, public authority, university, third sector and business communities over open data”

openDataWordlePhoto Credit: suzannelong via Compfight cc

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Myself and Mike Cummins have been doing some work looking at the Birmingham School Admissions procedure. Over the past year we’ve developed a tool that helps people find out more about the local authority’s schools, including showing the annual cut off distances.

Currently, these school cut off distances are typically provided by local authorities in paper documents or on the web in text formats such as pdf. This doesn’t make it easy for parents to get an overall view of the preferences they might choose. We hope our school finder tool, which allows you to put in a postcode and shows you the schools around you, is a step in the right direction.

Birmingham wide school catchment areas

Birmingham wide school cut off areas

With the applications for Birmingham Secondary Schools due in at the end of the month we think that now is the ideal time to make an alpha version of the tool available, which we’ve done today. This is a work in progress and the usual caveats apply. Please don’t use it as the only thing you base your decisions on, if you’re looking for a school place for your child.

There’s a feedback forum on UserEcho that we’ve set up for people to comment on the tool and suggest how we might develop it further.

We’re indebted to Caroline Beavon who worked very hard with us at the start of the project, had many of the good ideas and did a lot of the early data work.

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There have been a lot of unpublished datasets appearing on the government’s open data portal over the past couple of months. This is part of the response to Stephan Shakespeare’s review of Public Sector Information.

In his review, Shakespeare recommended that the government identify what he referred to as National Core Reference Data. He defined this as being the high quality core data that the public sector maintains already and said that he would “expect to find the connective tissue of place and location, the administrative building blocks of registered legal entities, the details of land and property ownership” in this collection.

A day of Muni, according to NextBus

The government’s response has been to rename?National Core Reference Data to the National Information Infrastructure. Rather than deciding which datasets should be part of that infrastructure themselves they have been releasing the details of unpublished datasets held within government on to data.gov.uk.Continue reading

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