Happy birthday to Ordnance Survey Linked Data

Today’s guest blog discusses the value of Linked Data and its applications by Steve Peters at the Department for Communities and Local Government.


Congratulations and many happy returns Ordnance Survey on the first anniversary of your LinkedData Service.

John Goodwin and his team deserve much credit and recognition for their excellent work developing this important resource.  I am impressed by the ability to quickly explore and query the Boundary-Line, Code-Point and the 1:50 000 Scale Gazetteer products via a single access point. This saves considerable time and effort when compared to the more conventional approach of downloading and stitching together multiple, separate shape files: although, of course, these alternative products are still valuable and complimentary to their LinkedData counterparts.

John and the team have done a great job developing a site which helps the user navigate and understand the relatively abstract and complex LinkedData world. Features such as “Find things using a query”, and the reconciliation service are intuitive and user-friendly. Documentation is comprehensive, and easy to follow.

The LinkedData itself is a backbone of DCLG’s OpenDataCommunities service. We are using it extensively in two main ways. Firstly, it is a unique set of identifiers for discovering and linking-together the Department’s statistical data about Local Authorities. As such, it is the glue for binding the geography in what are otherwise disconnected sources, and therefore creates new opportunities for exploring data via the spatial dimension: for example, to join up DCLG’s statistics on homelessness and social housing in a particular area.

Secondly, and more importantly, it enables users to explore and filter our data in quite sophisticated ways.  We use Ordnance Survey’s identifiers and LinkedData concepts to do things like:

  • Discover Wards, Parishes or postcodes contained within a particular district
  • Retrieve areas of a particular type – e.g. all London Boroughs, or County Councils
  • Discover areas which border, or touch a particular Ward or Local Authority
  • Explore the geographic hierarchy in a particular area.

It is especially impressive that all of this is available by simply following links in Ordnance Survey’s data. We use it throughout OpenDataCommunities, in features such as our Local Authority dashboard, and Geography Selector.

Ordnance Survey LinkedData at work in OpenDataCommunities


Figure 1 – the OpenDataCommunities Local Authority Dashboard – using Ordnance Survey LinkedData to discover neighbouring councils, and explore the administrative geography hierarchy.


Figure 2 – the OpenDataCommunities Geography Selector – using Ordnance Survey to traverse the administrative geography hierarchy, and discover links to census geographies

As it begins its second year, I am very much looking forward to seeing the Ordnance Survey LinkedData service grow and evolve as a key source of fully open and accessible information about the nation’s geography.

It would be great to see the LinkedData synchronised with its associated OS OpenData product: for example, so that Boundary-Line LinkedData is updated alongside the related shape files.

My wish-list also includes further work to align LinkedData from Ordnance Survey and the Office for National Statistics: for example, to improve integration of administrative and census geographies, and develop linkages between current and historic postcodes.

Finally, I would like to develop better two-way linkages between DCLG’s LinkedData defining Local Authorities and other public bodies as legal entities or organisations, and Ordnance Survey’s (and ONS’s) data on the geographic areas they govern and serve.

Overall, the Ordnance Survey LinkedData service is a cornerstone for future linking of data about place within the emerging web of data. Here’s to continued success and growth for its second year!

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