Management > Open Data

Government organisations register now in alpha, says GDS

David Bicknell Published 29 March 2017

Register hopes to provide greater clarity on generation of a number of lists of public sector organisations and looks for feedback on its shape and scope


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has indicated that a register of government organisations is now in alpha phase, with GDS looking for feedback on its shape and potential usage.

According to a blog by GDS digital product manager Michelle Isme, data about government organisations is needed by several people, which has in turn led to the generation of a number of lists of public sector organisations. The problem is that they all differ.

Some are broad in scope while others are more tightly defined. This, she says, is unsurprising given that the term ‘public sector’ means different things to different people, and includes potentially everything from central government departments to prisons, hospitals and charities that are at least 50% publicly funded.

The blog says, “While such a broadly defined list has many uses cases, it’s too broad to have a single custodian - a key requirement for keeping data accurate and up-to-date and one of the core characteristics of a register. In creating the alpha register of government organisations we decided to focus on those government organisations with a presence on GOV.UK.”

“This register includes ministerial departments and executive agencies but does not include classifications (e.g. arm’s length bodies) or any form of organisational hierarchy. We expect users of this register to include buyers on Digital Marketplace, the Government Property Unit and, of course, publishers on GOV.UK.”

The blog points out that while some services will need a hierarchy and/or classifications, adding this to the register will only benefit services that agree with GDS’ interpretation of what this hierarchy looks like. As government is incredibly federated, every user has their own idea of how government is organised.

The blog explains, “For example, when we created the register of local authorities in England we found that there was an assumption, amongst some users, that city councils were the ‘parent’ of local parish councils; leading to further assumptions around the power and authority each is able to exert. But, there is no formal agreement in place that supports this assumption. The same is true for how different parts of government are classified; some government agencies have a wider jurisdiction than others, so their relationship with ministerial departments does not lend itself to a clearly defined hierarchy.”

The blog points out that although it is starting off with a minimal list of identifiers and names, that is ensuring they’re “reliable and solid.”

The blog concludes, “Now that the register is in alpha we are interested in hearing your feedback on its shape - and by this we mean its scope and the fields is contains - and how you want to make use of it, alone or in conjunction with other registers.”

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