The UK’s Office for National Statistics selects TSO to open up its data for statisticians to grow geographic knowledge base

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has selected TSO to help it achieve a single source for the latest, quality assured, statistical geographic information as Linked Open Data. This will provide easy to use geographic information for the Government Statistical Service (GSS), statistical producers and external users to analyse.

The ONS is responsible for producing a wide range of key economic and social statistics which are used by policy makers across government to create evidence-based policies and monitor performance against them. ONS Geography provides a geographic referencing framework to enable the collection, production and presentation of accurate and consistent statistics.

The ONS linked data is accessible under an open metadata licence. This enables external users to find innovative new ways to re-use national statistics for the greater good, combining this data with other datasets to provide geographic information in new and exciting ways. This could lead to fresh insights into geographic information and potentially provide new and useful services for the general public to consume it.

The sophisticated geo-spatial service powered by OpenUp®, TSO’s Linked Data platform, means that the geographic data can be more easily accessed and cross linked. The statistical boundaries published via SPARQL endpoint and Linked Data APIs will be updated on a regular basis. The free text search makes it more straightforward to find consumer data and the third party applications to offer both accurate and current results.

Glen Watson, ONS’ Director General comments, "The adoption of geographic linked data by ONS marks a key milestone on ONS's commitment to publishing 5 star open linked data that will make it easier for statistical users to discover and consume our data. The linked data system is also an important and innovative solution to opening up access to ONS's geographical data - boundaries, maps and locations.”

The site initially offers 9 million Resource Description Framework (RDF) triples, including metadata, hierarchical relationship and polygons for output areas (OA) which are created for census data estimates.

To support the ONS’s strategy of unlocking the potential from data, a dedicated ONS Linked Data portal was developed to make it easy for developers and end users to query and pull the RDF for re-use via SPARQL queries or a Linked Data API. Users are able to search and query the geographic data using TSO’s Flint open source SPARQL query editor. The Linked Data can be “mashed up” with other open data sources to readily track changes over time, create innovative applications and visualisations, extending its value for the statistics community.

TSO set up and hosts the data, held as RDF in its OpenUp® Linked Data platform. TSO’s in-house semantic team used its expertise in Linked Data and semantic technologies to provide an end-to-end solution for ONS including data modelling, creating a suitable URI scheme and reporting.

The ONS joins prominent scientific publishers, Nature Publishing Group (NPG), The Royal Society of Chemistry and the British Library in selecting the OpenUp® RDF hosting service to disseminate Linked Data. The tried-and-tested platform has already been relied upon for the dissemination of Linked Data for some of the most important government institutions, such as The National Archives, for their UK Legislation and Gazettes content. 

Peter Camilleri, TSO’s Business Development Director said “We are delighted to be working with the ONS team and proud to assist such an important organisation in delivering Linked Data for the country’s greater good. The ONS’ selection of our services confirms our position as a leader in semantic web technologies. Our cost-effective OpenUp® Linked Data platform enables greater re-use and discoverability of vital information and ensures geographical information can be widely shared to accelerate knowledge growth in this critical field”.

To see the ONS’s linked data portal, please visit: http://ons.services.tso.co.uk/