The data’s big, the data’s free

Today the Digital Services team at Companies House passes a major milestone. We officially go live with the “free data” version of our new search service. Just another project milestone? Actually, no. It’s a big deal: 170m company records are now available free of charge to the public, via both a whizzy web service and a RESTful API. (And while we’re at it, we’ve unified the search and filing services).

CHS Free DataWe had 300m data accesses last year. When other parts of our data went free, we saw a 700% increase in access. Imagine what the stats are going to look like now! Thank goodness we’ve got AWS on board to cope with peaks in demand. We’ve been tweaking the service during the private beta, and been getting some truly great user feedback.

What really interests me now is the massive opportunity for these free corporate data to improve the efficiency of the UK economy.  Why have your staff input company names, addresses, directors as free text into your sales or purchase ledger? Just pull the clean, structured data direct from our API, avoiding all those dirty, duplicated data. Link to the CH record so you instantly know about changes of name and address. Have a single verified instance of a customer/supplier rather than whatever free text happens to get entered. Why not get ahead of the game by checking daily on the trading status of companies on your debtors ledger? Just automatically pull their trading status and latest accounts from CH.  About to employ a builder or plumber? Check out their corporate credentials using our web service.  That’s all free of charge, courtesy of Companies House.

 

I’d love to take credit for the new service, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t. There’s a great in-house team at CH that have pulled together to deliver this, more than ever in recent months. Special mentions to Chris Smith, Andrew Maddaford, Ian Kent, Rachel Cooper, Nic Barnes, and of course Robbie McNeil as Product Owner.

The World Wide Web has massively enhanced the speed and frequency of communications, and the transparency of and access to data. Consumers led the charge, companies followed slowly, and governments even more slowly. But I think the UK government’s now setting the agenda – leading the charge for free, accessible data, for the benefit of citizens and companies alike. Mike Bracken‘s shouting about what we’re doing, my CEO’s happy, and I’m proud that Companies House is right at the front of the charge to government as a platform.

Stay tuned for what comes next (more exciting news soon).

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