The following guest post is from Andrew Stott, who sits on the UK Government’s Public Sector Transparency Board. In his former role as Director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, Andrew helped to set up the UK’s open data initiative.

Speaking to the OKFN Open Government Data Camp in Warsaw this morning, Professor Nigel Shadbolt said on behalf of the members of the UK Transparency Board:-

There’s now just a week left to respond to the UK’s two consultations on Public Data:

  • Making Open Data Real” – about how the UK Government should build on its good progress so far and embed transparency and open data as business as usual through the public sector
  • Public Data Corporation” – about the future of the UK Government’s information trading funds which, historically, have charged for their data.

It’s important that as many of the open data community as possible respond to each of these consultations so that their voice is heard by the Ministers and officials concerned, and so that there is a wide set of proposals to feed into the final decision taking.  Conventionally government consultations pose specific questions for comment, but we are sure that the Government is open to any constructive views on the broader issues; and the more evidence the better.

It’s especially important for the Open Data community to make its voice heard on the proposed Public Data Corporation because of the range of other, different, interests affected.

As members of the UK Government’s Transparency Board our passion for open data is well known.  The value of data is not in its sale but its widespread use.  So, whether or not the UK Government decide to proceed with the formation of an overarching Public Data Corporation, it is essential that the information Trading Funds have:

  1. a clear, unambiguous primary mission to maximise the overall contribution of data and services to economic growth, innovation, public service improvement and efficiency (this is as opposed to a primary mission, implicit or explicit, to generate revenues)
  2. a clear commitment to release more and more of their data as Open Data over time, and a credible road map for doing so.
  3. a governance structure which clearly gives primacy to the long term public interest
  4. business models which ensures the production of data of appropriate quality to meet user needs, which allow the for evolution of data products to suit changing needs over time, while maintaining the solvency of the trading funds.
  5. a structure which protects the vital national interest in the data especially core reference sets, but which creates real downward pressure on costs.

We also consider that as tangible evidence of the Government’s commitment to Open Data and to encourage early innovation there should be a substantial additional release of useful data on an open basis; and if there is an efficiency and synergy case for the Public Data Corporation we would expect those benefits to be ploughed back into further opening up of data.  We would welcome suggestions as what the priorities for this should be.

Whether or not you share our views we urge you to respond to the consultation.  It’s important for your voice to be heard.



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