Last week the National Audit Office put out a document called “Implementing Transparency” part of which (8.2 - if you are interested) said that we need open data about social care “to support users in choosing how to spend personalised budgets”.

Tonight Panorama will give weight to that by showing that regulator data is sometimes a long way from current reality, whereas (as many a hotelier knows from TripAdvisor) data collected from the fickle public can mount up very quickly if something is wrong.

Open data is very important to me and I believe that transparency and openness in the long term increases performance and eventually open organisations will always benefit over those who hide their murky ill-doings. I also like playing with open data and this weekend I took part in Rewired State’s National Hack the Government Day at the GDS offices in London. My hack (involving Met Office data) even won a prize, but my cup failed to completely run over as I never got to shake the hand of Mike Bracken who was meant to award the prizes (he didn’t turn up).

Our comparison web site has a commitment to keeping its data open, but actually collecting data about social care providers is non trivial because:

  • people don’t sample as many social care providers as they might restaurants or hotels
  • many of the people who do have experience of using providers don’t have access to the internet or a computer

There is nothing much that can be done quickly about the first point (though Panorama ought to be an incentive for people to share their knowledge) but today we launched (as a trial, initially) a new feature on the site that addresses the second problem – Review by Phone. Service users can call 020 3322 2611 from their landline and leave a spoken review about a provider (they tell the system who the provider is by dialling their phone number, which is already on our system). We hope that this will enable us to collect enough data to ensure that the public knows enough about providers quickly enough to ensure that in future Panorama has to go outside the social care space for its material.