Environment Agency: Going open

Executive summary

The Environment Agency (EA) works to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development in England.

Underpinning this work is data. A lot of it. EA has 1,700 defined datasets which are valuable not just to EA but to other groups and businesses who want to understand more about the environment. EA used to charge those who wanted to access its data, but in 2010 stopped charging for non-commercial use. Since then, EA has committed to making more of its data accessible to wider groups by releasing it as open data: data that anyone can access, use and share.

When EA first opened valuable datasets on bathing water quality and flood risks, developers and hackers quickly used them to build useful applications and tools, and businesses ingested them to use for themselves. After this, EA committed to releasing all of its commercial datasets by 2018.

This is the story of EA on its journey to becoming open by default: its transition, its challenges and how it has benefitted – from core objectives being achieved and resources saved to improved data quality and public perception.

It also outlines how EA open data is being used in tools, applications and business by external groups, and highlights how the data has benefitted the wider community. It also raises some lessons learned for other organisations looking to release their data, including getting the timing right and publishing in accessible formats.

The ODI has produced this report through extensive interviews with members of the EA team involved in the release of open data, along with key EA data users.

How to cite this report

Open Data Institute (2015) Environment Agency: Going open. London, UK. Available at http://theodi.org/ea-going-open-summary