Government usage of data registers shoots up

Data shows more and more services are accessing data sets

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The government’s usage of data registers has skyrocketed in 2019.

As of the end of last month, so far this year there have been a total of 758,283 API requests from government services to access one of GOV.UK’s 51 registers. This total – more than half of which were made during May, which saw a record 382,000 access requests – is already more than the 754,285 that took place across the whole of 2018. This itself was a near-fivefold rise on the 2017 tally of 155,753.

January saw 45,000 requests, rising to 50,900 in February, then again to 85,500 in March. Monthly usage dropped a little to 80,800 in April, before shooting up in May. Only twice since the first registers were created in early 2016 have monthly requests topped 100,000; prior to last month, the only other occasion was in September 2018, when the total stood at 258,000.

The most commonly accessed register to date is the data set of government domains. In the last 40 months, APIs have made 660,211 access requests to this register – 37.5% of the cumulative total of 1.76 million made across all 51 registers.  The register of countries is next on the list, with a total of 593,172 requests, equating to 33.7% of the total.

Since being created, the data set of non-sovereign territories has been accessed 129,556 times, representing 7.4% of the total, while the 81,574 API requests to access the database of central government organisations equates to 4.6% of the total. The top five most-used registers is completed by the list of local authorities across England. 

In total, these five account for 86.3% of all access requests. 

Total number of data registers available

Number of API requests to access data registers made in May

1.76 million
Number of API requests to access data registers made since February 2016

Amount of access requests to date accounted for by the register of countries

Other data sets available to service designers include registers of county, district, borough, and unitary authorities across the four countries of the UK, as well as databases of clinical commissioning groups, jobcentres, and prisons. Also available are lists of allergens, educational qualifications, and templates of information-sharing agreements.

The register of countries, managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, contains information on 199 current and former states. Included in the register is information on countries’ common English name, full title, two-letter code, demonyms for its citizens and, where applicable, its start and end date. The register is regularly updated – most recently to reflect Macedonia being renamed as North Macedonia.

The data set for jobcentres, meanwhile, includes information on the 696 towns across England, Scotland, and Wales that house a jobcentre. The register, which is managed by the Department for Work and Pensions, also contains data on the unique identification code of both the jobcentre and its district, as well as its unique property reference number and, in certain cases, the centre’s opening and closing date. This data set has been accessed 7,647 times to date.

Overseen by the Government Digital Service, GOV.UK registers are defined as “structured datasets of government information, designed to ensure government services run on the best-quality data infrastructure”.

Registers are designed to ensure government services are designed around consistent data. They play a key role in areas like designing data-entry forms for citizen use. 

The number of registers has grown steadily in recent years. Having launched in February 2016 with a total of four, this figure rose to seven by the start of 2017. This number grew almost fourfold over the course of 2017 to 26, before nigh-on doubling last year to 50. One new register has been created so far in 2019.

The registers collection is divided into nine areas: crime justice and law; education, training and skills; environment; geography; government; health and social care; life circumstances; regional and local government; and work.

Data sets have been provided by 15 different central government entities, as well as the Welsh and Scottish Governments and NHS Digital.


Sam Trendall

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