Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has launched a whitepaper this week that details the government’s drive to release data into the public domain for analysis and re-use, but has said that ‘there is nothing easy about transparency’ and the ‘formative years of open government will be tricky’.
The government has already made more than 9,000 datasets available via data.gov.uk and is planning to launch a £10m Open Data Institute, headed up by inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee, to help businesses maximise the commercial value of open data.
The white paper details new government commitments to open data, which include publishing data on which organisations receive grant funding, releasing information on how EU funds are used in the UK, and detailing the results of international aid projects.
Despite recognising the difficulties in making this information available to the public, which requires setting up systems to ensure data can be cleansed, structured and released on a regular basis, Maude hailed the open data initiative as a success for the Coalition.
“Data is the new raw material of the 21st century. It allows citizens to hold governments to account, drives improvements in public services by informing choice, and provides a feedstock for innovation and growth,” he said.
He added: “We will keep putting more data, of higher quality, into the public domain so everyone can reap the benefits of transparency and open data in the future. The prize – better public services and a more prosperous UK – is just too good to ignore.”
“And to ensure that privacy concerns are at the centre of all discussions on data releases today we are announcing the appointment of a privacy expert to the Public Sector Transparency Board.”
The government has also announced that it plans to undergo a complete overhaul of the data.gov.uk site to include better search facilities, simpler ways to access information, and better tools for developers, such as API access to the catalogue holdings.