Digital MPs

Making good use of available data

The UK is a world leader on publishing open data and this data can be used by MPs to understand trends and inform their policies and campaigns. We explored some data sources that could be useful.

MPs currently use sources such as the Office for National Statistics and the House of Commons Library to inform their work, alongside local knowledge built up over time. Many more resources exist but most MPs do not know where to start.

Here are some data sources and tools that can be used by MPs’ offices:

  • LG Inform by Local Government Association. Data used for local issues pertinent to local authorities.
  • ONS All official national statistics. Can also be filtered by constituency area here.
  • Nomis by ONS. Labour market data.
  • Open datasets from a broad range of sources and departments.
  • statistics Government statistics related to performance/efficacy of government.
  • Facebook or Twitter analytics data can also be exported from each platform.
  • Digital Exclusion Heatmap of the UK.

Useful data tools:

  • Open Refine A powerful tool for cleaning messy data, transform it into other formats, and merging with different data sources. Try the online tutorial videos here.
  • Tableau Public Software that allows you to easily visualise data. See some examples here.

We explored using Twitter data in more depth with a social media listening tool developed by Demos. We found that seeing trending topics at a constituency level requires more data than Twitter users currently provide. Combining Twitter and Facebook data could provide more powerful insight.

Steps to understanding data:

  • Download a dataset. Here is a good overview of how to explore it.
  • Sort through, then play around by merging different datasets with Open Refine.
  • Upload onto Tableau Public to visualise and analyse the data.

Potential next steps:

  • Use the analysis to submit questions to the House of Commons Library for in-depth analysis.
  • Create campaigns around new analyses/discoveries.
  • Include visualisations in public releases and reports.
  • Further simplify data and design it into a shareable infographic using Piktochart.

An example would be to combine social deprivation data from ONS with an export of postcodes from constituent casework. This can indicate which areas of a constituency are in need but not getting in contact with the MP.

To learn more about open data and analysis, try the Open Data Institute’s free e-learning modules.