ODI Showcase 2016: Out for the Count
We speak with ODI Showcase winners Out for the Count about the importance of accessible information for democracy, and their plans to build a results tracker for local elections data in time for the UK's local elections on 5 May
What’s your idea in a nutshell?
We’re building a results tracker for local elections data down to individual candidate level for the 5 May local government elections for local councillors. We’re crowdsourcing the data as it comes in, working with local government and active citizens. The LGiU and Democracy Club have teamed up on this project, and will work on it in partnership.
Sounds interesting! What gave you this idea?
Both the LGiU and Democracy Club are dedicated to improving democracy. The LGiU covers local elections as part of its wider local government work. Democracy Club helps open up data to make better digital services for citizens.
When we found each other we discovered we were both frustrated by how hard it could be to find clear election results for councillors. Results are often locked away in obscure corners of council websites in hard-to-find PDF documents, and it’s not always clear which political party is in control of the council. We saw an opportunity to collaborate on solving the problem of a lack of timely, open, collective local elections results – so, together, we’re Out for the Count.
When did you first get excited about open data?
We’ve been excited about open data for a long time. Not all of the problems in government are information-related, but many are and open data can help address that. Local government is closest to the people and if there’s one set of data (and of course there are more than that!) that must be open – we think it’s elections data. How open can a democracy be if it’s not easy to find the outcome of a race to represent you and your neighbourhood? Candidates hope to govern on matters that affect our everyday lives – from cleaner streets to greener spaces, public health to social care – it should be easier to find out who has won and who has come close.
Where do you see open data in 10 years?
That’s a big question! Better to say that we see open elections data as a completely normal and unremarkable thing in 10 years – not a gold standard, but a universal standard in terms of democratic information. The election results tracker we’re building and the approach we’re taking could be used anywhere in the world where there are open elections.
What are your plans for your project, and how will you achieve them?
We’re hoping to have all of the local elections data crowdsourced as soon as possible after returns have been made. We'll need lots of people to help us get that information – people in councils and people who are interested in better democracy. If you’d like to help open up democratic data, sign up for more information and updates here.
We’re so excited to have support from the ODI. ODI Showcase funding is helping us to develop the election results tracker and support from the ODI will help us to reach more people in the run-up to the elections in England. In turn, this will ensure our tool will have wider recognition to support more open democracy everywhere.
The ODI Showcase supports projects that demonstrate how open data can be used to bring longstanding benefits to individuals, organisations and society. The ODI provides grant funding, mentoring and promotional support to maximise these impacts. Find out more here.