Posts tagged ‘Local Government Association’

…the magic of open data

I’m so annoyed.. or elated.. I’m not sure.

I just made a fully-functioning Toilet Map for England & Wales in just over an hour.

Click the image to try out this map of 1611 loos:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 14.04.51

©2015 HERE Terms of use CartoDB attribution

This is because over 80 of the 406 councils responsible for toilets now publish public toilet open data, thanks to the Local Government Association (LGA) Local Government Open Data Incentive Scheme, open to councils in England & Wales.

By developing a standard, the toilet data contains extra details that people need to meet their needs (open, accessible to them, attended, free, etc..). It also means it’s incredibly easy to use the data, as it can all be combined into 1 dataset from 80+.

To put this map in context:

The first toilet map I made, in 2010, was a Google Map of 56 Public and Community Toilets in Wandsworth. It took me 5 hours and a trip to a cemetery. 

The second, The Great British Public Toilet Map of 10000 toilets, has taken 3.5 years (so far), several thousand pounds, and the combined effort of developers, enthusiasts and hundreds of members of public.

The map above I made with no skill whatsoever:

  • I downloaded the .csv file containing all the data from http://schemas.opendata.esd.org.uk/PublicToilets (by clicking the ‘1’ at the bottom of the page).
  • I opened this in Excel and went ‘ooo!’.
  • I then uploaded the dataset to CartoDB using a free trial.
  • I clicked ‘View map’ and selected the 2 columns containing the Latitude and Longitude infomation from a drop-down list.

THAT’S IT. 

That didn’t take an hour. That took about 10 minutes. However it only showed a few hundred toilets, yet there were over a thousand rows of info in the .csv file.

On closer inspection, I found that the Lat & Long columns were a mix of Lat / Long and Northings/Eastings. So for those toilets that had the latter, I pasted the Northings/Eastings into a different column. I then found a site to convert them by googling ‘convert northings eastings into lat long’ – I used gridreferencefinder.com. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it wouldn’t be much work to use the Ordnance Survey’s own converter instead. I then used a VLookup function in Excel to enter in the corresponding Lat/Long for each Northing/Easting. I was quite pleased with this, but I could have used Copy/Paste.

I then uploaded this dataset, tided up the new map using the nice CartoDB interface and picked out which details would be shown when you click on each toilet. I’m still reeling at how easy it is.

Now, The Great British Public Toilet Map has 10000 toilets, 10 x the amount shown on this map, or listed on the LGA site and data.gov.uk.

This just serves to show the potential of more councils, and other providers (train stations, service stations, shopping centres) joining up to publish standard public toilet open data (or any open data), that could help the public or improve a public service, especially for those that need them most. 

May 21, 2015 at 11:34 am 1 comment

.. the Local open data incentive scheme

Screen shot of the Local government open data incentive scheme

BIG NEWS in the search for local council toilet data.

After years of emailing councils requesting open data about their toilets, it is now suddenly being published, in bulk, in a useful format.

22 datasets have already passed ‘technical review’ in the last couple of months, with 80+ in the pipeline!

22 is already about as much as I managed in 3 years…

But how? (quick answer – the Local Government Association asked them to)

and why? (quick answer – they’re paying them)

In February 2013 I made a formal request for public toilet location data via data.gov.uk.

The Open Data User Group took up this request – cogs whirred, people in meetings said ‘Toilets!”, plans were developed (OK so I don’t know the details..) and the Local open data incentive scheme was born, with public toilets as one of the three datasets it would focus on.

Woo!

Managed by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Local open data incentive scheme offers up to £7000 to councils if they publish open data about key themes in a consistent format.

The current themes are public toilets, planning applications and licensing of premises. They get £2000 per theme and a bonus £1K if they do all three.

Approved data will be collated and will also appear on data.gov.uk for people to use and make maps and find toilets etc. etc.

Thank you people who made this happen for taking the request seriously, not overlooking the unsexy topic of public loos and spending your money to get better information about a vital public service.

September 23, 2014 at 10:02 am 2 comments


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