Following a renewed emphasis on open government in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2011 Autumn statement, the United Kingdom (UK) has already begun to make more public sector information available in an effort to catalyze new markets and innovative products and services, as well as improve standards and transparency in public services. One key piece of the government’s plan to open up access to core public datasets on transport, weather, and health is the release of Met Office UK weather information to the public.
Built on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform, raw observation weather data from the Met Office’s massive data sets is available for the public to download, interpret, and create their own forecasts. The weather information is available both on the UK government’s open government website, where visitors can download a CSV file, as well as Microsoft’s Windows Azure Marketplace, which makes the data available for free as a query dataset.
Using the free OData (Open Data Protocol) plug-in also available in the Azure Marketplace, citizens and developers can easily analyze the data in Excel, essentially giving them unprecedented access to powerful meteorological data including hourly, daily, and five-day forecasts. The Marketplace provides not only another way to more easily obtain the information, but also a more consistent and straightforward way to publish the data. From there, citizen, partners, and government organizations can create useful cloud-based and mobile apps for public and commercial consumption.
The UK weather data initiative is just one of many key open data projects based on Azure, which supports particularly large data volumes. Another example is Transport for London’s TrackerNet system, which provides citizens and visitors with access to real-time information about train movements right on their mobile device. Other open government initiatives made possible by Azure include Love Clean London, UK FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth) Travel Advisory Service, and Spotlightonspend.org.uk.
For more information on the Met Office’s open weather data initiative, please visit the Microsoft UK Government Blog and the data.gov.uk Open up government blog.
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