Open data? Only if you go knocking

So, I need to know what the population of the UK, and then specifically England and Wales, has been each year for the last 10 years for some analysis I’m doing. Naturally I thought to look at the Office of National Statistics for the most reliable estimates.

After a couple of false starts, I found what I was after, though the particular numbers I needed were spread over 20 different spreadsheets. So I downloaded each and extracted the numbers I wanted.

Then I thought that maybe I’d be a good egg and reproduce the numbers here, to save other people who need the same data from spending the 20-30 mins it’s taken me to extract these figures, which are publicly available but not always in the most convenient format. But then I noticed the terms and conditions:

” These figures are not to be disseminated or published without the prior consent of the Office for National Statistics. Any reproduction of these Data must acknowledge the Office for National Statistics as the data source. “

The second bit I would have done without needing to be told. But the first? I really have to ask for permission to repost here the UK population statistics that are freely available to anyone with an internet connection?

This doesn’t strike me as terribly efficient in the data age. I can understand the need to attribute, and I also appreciate that the ONS don’t want their name attached to things that aren’t verified. But there has to be a better way of disseminating public data than this. Unfortunately my experience seems to be merely the tip of the iceberg. The open data is out there, but you still have to work for it.


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