Data.gov.uk is by no means new ‘on the scene’ of open data, but it does contain quite a few hidden gems that show a rare moment of clarity from someone, somewhere in government. In total, according to the website, there are currently 726 various datasets that can be downloaded or accessed through their API.

The selection of datasets available can be accessed at http://data.gov.uk/data and as I’m sure you’re capable of looking at the list yourself, I’m not going to waffle on about what is available. Instead, there’s a few other things that are worthy of mention.

Firstly, the website contains some examples of apps that have been created using the datasets that have been made available. Some of these can prove to be incredibly useful and should hopefully solve some of those ‘if only I had an app which….’ moments, such as finding your closest pharmacy or finding out if there are any road works in your area, or areas you may be driving through / visiting. Some of the more ‘niche’ applications include the likes of an app that visualises water quality in Bristol. Someone, somewhere clearly wanted it.

There’s also an area of the website where members of the public can submit ideas for apps or other data to be made available. While you probably won’t find someones musings on an idea that is going to make you a millionaire overnight, there’s probably more than a few half-decent ideas that can be developed into something useful and effective.

The website also offers an area containing ‘guest blogs‘, some of which are hopefully useful to some of you. Some of my favourites are the ‘real time energy’ blogs which demonstrate the energy usage of central government buildings in the least imaginative way possible. While the blogs themselves don’t really do the data justice, they do demonstrate two things: firstly, that the data is there to do something with and secondly, that someone, somewhere cares enough to try and do something about the amount of energy that the government is wasting (shame we can’t do the same about our money, but hey ho). When I get a few spare minutes, I’m contemplating doing something more imaginative with the data that is available, watch this space! Some of the blogs that are ‘featured’ at the time of writing aren’t actually blogs on the data.gov website, but rather links to older posts on other sites. Its almost cheating, but at least they’re by Tim Berners-Lee et al, which makes it more forgivable. There’s also a post by Jeni Tennison which talks about developing with linked / open data apis, which is worth at least a glance.

As a final note, the Coalition government, in their ‘Programme for Government’ documentation state that they “…will ensure that all data published by  public bodies is published in an open and  standardised format, so that it can be used  easily and with minimal cost by third parties”. So, in theory, the amount of datasets available on data.gov.uk keeps on growing, but hey, there is a recession on ……..