It is, in the ever lucid words of Government, “a data visualisation dashboard” providing the Prime Minister with “key public service and other indicators”. To the rest of us it’s known as an app – albeit one that is unlikely to tear David Cameron away from Angry Birds.
As part of the Government’s drive to engage with the digital world, officials have created “one-stop” web application to provide ministers and senior civil servants with instant access to Government data on the move.
According to those who have seen the app, currently being tested by Mr Cameron and a handful of senior officials, it contains live data relating to jobs, housing and Government performance. It also monitors polling information and posts on social media, giving the PM an at-a-glance view of how the country feels about the issues of the day.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office confirmed that the app, which is still in its testing phase, is currently on the prime minister’s iPad, as well as devices used by a select group of staff within the Cabinet Office. “He has used it, given feedback and eventually it will be rolled out across the Government,” the official said. “This is all information that is in the public domain but this is about pulling it together in one place.”
The app, which had the working title of No 10 Dashboard, was developed by the Cabinet Office’s digital team – and has the capability to pull in information from hundreds of data sources including the Office for National Statistics, individual departments as well as Google, Facebook and Twitter.It will eventually provide all ministers with information on “trending” topics from search engines and social media - keeping tabs on the levels of activity around key words such as “NHS” “jobs” – or even “David Cameron”.
The app also takes data from Adzuna - a London-based start-up which aggregates large amounts of data from a number of job vacancy and property-listing sites.
“The benefits of using our data is that it’s right up-to-the-minute, real-time data about what’s happening in the market,” said Doug Monro, the company’s co-founder. “It will allow the Prime Minister to see, in real-time, whether there are more or less vacancies day-by-day, and what the average salaries on offer are. In bringing all sorts of data into government decision-making, it’s changing the way the government uses data.”
However not everyone was so enthusiastic.
“If it’s reliable, it’s through some kind of miracle,” Dominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov, told the BBC.
“Trending topics is hardly a way to govern a country,” he said.
The Cabinet Office also confirmed that because of security concerns the app was unlikely ever to include information not already in the public domain.
“It would be fair to say it’s not going to include any nuclear codes,” said one source.