New report sheds more light on West Midlands geography

In the public sector, many of our policies, strategies and services follow administrative boundaries such as regions, local authorities, police force areas, primary care trusts or even wards.

But out there in the real world, people don’t live their lives as neatly as that. Many people live in one place and work, learn or shop in others. Businesses too have customers and suppliers from many different places.

Whilst every person, and every business is different, understanding the patterns in these kinds of links between places is important.

For example, when analysing the local labour market it is no good just looking at the people who live locally if many local workers come from elsewhere.

Understanding “functional geographies” has always been important but the issue’s profile has been raised in recent times as government has sought to devolve more responsibility for economic development to sub-regional and local areas.

Over the next year all upper tier and unitary local authorities will need to produce Local Economic Assessments. Government guidance says that these will need to “identify the economic linkages within the area assessed and between it and the wider economy.”

In preparation for this, the Observatory has just published a report looking at some of the key sub-regional links between places in the West Midlands.

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Observatory map featured in top 10 government data visualisations and applications

An interactive map produced by the Observatory has been featured in The Guardian’s top 10 government data visualisations and applications.

Screenshot: interactive map showing Jobseeker's Allowance claimant rates in the West Midlands

This map shows the proportion of the working age population claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in each local authority in the West Midlands. You can also compare data for each local authority with the West Midlands and UK averages.

The map is based on the latest employment and unemployment data released monthly by the Office for National Statistics. The Observatory analyses this data as part of its work in monitoring the impact of the recession on the West Midlands.

As well as local authority, we also show the data in maps for:

The 10 data visualisations and applications were highlighted by the Guardian Datastore on the same day the government publicly launched the data.gov.uk site. This new site aims to unlock innovation and encourage data-led decisions by opening up public sector data for reuse in innovative applications and websites.

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Making the invisible visible: matching West Midlands ICT SMEs with business opportunities

West Midlands ICT Cluster AWMistThis is a guest post written by Brian Prangle with contributions from Andrew Mackenzie.

West Midlands Regional Development Agency, Advantage West  Midlands (AWM) has unveiled its latest initiative to stimulate and develop the high technology sector.

AWMist (A Web Map-based Information Search Tool) is the first regional interface of its kind where collaboration, business opportunity building, and partnerships can be easily forged between the region’s ICT SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) and those who can support and assist them, such as funding agencies, universities and business support projects.

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Government ensures free access to some Ordnance Survey maps

Gordon Brown, Liam Byrne and Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Smarter Government seminar at Downing Street, 17th November 2009

Gordon Brown, Liam Byrne and Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Smarter Government seminar at Downing Street, 17th November 2009

Photo of Smarter Government seminar by Downing Street

Some Ordnance Survey maps are to be made available to businesses and the public, as part of the Government’s drive to open up data to improve transparency.

Speaking at a seminar yesterday on Smarter Government in Downing Street, attended by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary John Denham set out how the Government and Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, will open up its data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mid scale mapping information.

This data would be released for free re-use, including commercially.

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Observatory issues invitation to tender to support integrated policy model

West Midlands Regional Observatory logoThe Observatory has released an Invitation to Tender (PDF, 320kb) today for provision of technical and analytical support for our Integrated Policy Model (IPM).

This is an exciting opportunity for external consultants to engage with the IPM, the first fully integrated spatial model developed to support regional, local and sub-regional organisations plan and monitor policies.

The IPM  is an interactive tool which allows policy makers and analysts to explore in detail the potential impacts of specific policy interventions. Before committing millions of pounds of investment, the potential impacts in different local areas can be simulated within the realistic regional environment of the model.

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Plot data on world maps with new OECD tools

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentTwo new online tools from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now allow you to plot a huge array of social and economic data onto world maps and track them through time creating an animated chart as you follow your chosen geographic area against other areas. It’s easy to use and, more importantly, easy on the eye.

The first tool, the OECD Factbook eXplorer, allows you to display data (subject to availability) for countries from 1950 to 2006, or even beyond if forecast data is available.

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Interactive map of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants

We’ve produced an interactive map to show how Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant rates are changing across the region in response to the recession.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is the main unemployment benefit for working age people who are out of work.

Screenshot: interactive map showing Jobseeker's Allowance claimant rates in the West Midlands

Open the interactive map (requires Adobe Flash Player)
Download the dataset (XLS, 25kb)
Source: Office for National Statistics, claimant count (not seasonally adjusted)

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