Britain to spend millions on opening data

LONDON — The British government has earmarked £7 million for the fiscal year starting in April for the purchase of more data from its departments to be released for free.

So far more than 40,000 public data sets have been released on, as part of Whitehall’s transparency agenda.

A new independently chaired Data Strategy Board (DSB) will have access to the money, which will come from Trading Fund organizations and potentially other public sector organizations from efficiency savings. (According to Wikipedia, Trading Funds are parts of government departments. Some already sell information to the public and private sectors.)

The DSB’s role will be to advise ministers on what data should be released. It will also work with the Public Data Group (PDG), which comprises Trading Funds organizations the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House, to develop a more consistent approach to improving access to government information.

Members to the board have yet to be appointed, but at least one in three of the members will be from outside government, including representatives of data re-users. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and Universities and Science minister David Willets will be jointly responsible for the DSB.

In Canada, the federal government is trying to come up with an open data strategy. It recently held a public consultation on creating a formal open government plan, which includes an open data strategy. It promised to release a report this month the results of that consultation as a prelude to releasing an action plan in April. A year ago the government launched an Open Data Portal pilot project, which now has over 270,000 federal datasets.

The British Open Data User Group, made up of representatives from the open data community, will be directly involved in decisions on the release of open data in England. It will advise the Data Strategy Board on what data to be purchased from public organizations.

Maude said: “The new structure for Open Data will ensure a more inclusive discussion, including private sector data users, on future data releases, how they should be paid for and which should be available free of charge.”

The British government is in the process of recruiting for the chairs of the DSB and the PDG.
(With an add by Howard Solomon, Computerworld Canada)

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