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Information industry analyst, Outsell, reports on UK data.gov

From: Mills Davis <mdavis@project10x.com>
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 10:59:48 -0500
Message-Id: <4BBA92B2-F36D-4882-BC1D-FB1CB9513280@project10x.com>
Cc: eGovIG IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
To: Brand Niemann <bniemann@cox.net>

Information providers aren't web 3 until they speak RDFa... O'Reilly's doing it. But, here's

I came across this coverage of the UK Data.gov effort from the information industry analyst firm, Outsell:

UK Government Finally Recognises Value of Its Own Information

by Kate Worlock, Director & Lead Analyst - United Kingdom

* Sir Tim Berners Lee has worked with the UK government to produce the
website data.gov.uk, a repository of publicly available government
information. Will this stimulate innovative projects and British

Important Details:  Data.gov.uk [1] was launched last week and aims, much
like the US data.gov [2] site, to provide a place where non-personal
government data can be easily found, easily licensed and easily re-used. 
The site is the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Leee (founder of the World
Wide Web) and Professor Nigel Shadbolt at the University of Southampton,
and arose from a conversation between Berners-Lee and UK Prime Minister
Gordon Brown at a dinner in early 2009.  The Guardian reports [3] that
Brown asked Berners-Lee: "What's the most important technology right now?
How should the UK make the best use of the internet?", to Berners-Lee
replied: "Just put all the government's data on it."  Imagine his surprise
when Brown said "OK, let's do it."

Since then progress has been rapid.  Berners-Lee recruited Shadbolt, and
then set about the unenviable task of persuading government departments
that freeing up their information would be a worthwhile task.  Concerns
were raised, and put to rest for now at least, over anonymity of data,
particularly given the glut of errors whereby confidential data had
erroneously been leaked into the public domain, usually through something
as simple as data disks getting lost in the post, or laptops holding
confidential information being left on a train.

But they have made it in the end, and the data.gov.uk site is a simple
interface to the rich world of government data.  The intention is to have
the data published as RDF, to use open standards and open source software,
and to work with the developer community to create really useful resources.
Indeed, some have already been created.  The site contains an Ideas page
for people to submite ideas for applications they'd like to see, and an
Apps page for applications that others have already submitted; there's also
a wiki and a forum to foster community interaction, and a search facility. 
Apps which have already been created include CycleStreets [4] (a UK-wide
cycle journey planner system), ClearBooks [5] (an accounting software app
that allows users to search and store data from over two million companies
through the Companies House WebCHeck service), and Health Maps Wales [6] (a
tool that can be used to explore a variety of health indicators grouped
under broad categories, such as cancer, common procedures and causes of
injury).  Next steps for the data.gov.uk creators is to create a similar
offering for data emanating from local, rather than central, government.

Implications:  After years of effort from many individuals within the
information industry and within government to put a service like this into
place, it is heartening to see it finally appear.  Now it is up to
commercial bodies to demonstrate that this data can be profitably used to
build new and valuable services that can help the information economy to
grow and that can act as a stimulus to economic recovery in the UK. There
are still hurdles, however.  One body which has always been reticent to
release its information is Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK's mapping agency. 
As a trading agency rather than a government division, OS must make a
profit from its mapping data, and has in the past successfully defended the
restrictive licences it places on this data.  However, November 2009 saw
Gordon Brown announce that mid-level OS data would be made freely available
- the UK Government seem to have finally heeded advisors such as the
Cambridge University report issued in 2009 suggested that making OS data
free to use would cost the government GBP 21 million but would bring
commercial benefits of GBP 156 million - the tax revenue from this would
clearly cover the costs.

Now what is needed are innovative developers of applications with real
commercial benefit.  Information providers are in prime position to take
advantage of this opportunity - mixing reliable government data with
valuable third party data should be a winning combination.

Links contained in this article:
[1] http://www.data.gov.uk/" target="_blank
[2] http://www.data.gov/" target="_blank
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jan/21/how-official-data-freed" target="_blank
[4] http://www.cyclestreets.net/" target="_blank
[5] http://www.clearbooks.co.uk/blog/2009/11/20/companies-house-webcheck-built-into-clear-books/" target="_blank
[6] http://www.infoandstats.wales.nhs.uk/page.cfm?orgid=869&amp;pid=40976" target="_blank

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Mills Davis
Managing Director
202-255-6655 cel
skype: millsdavis
1-800-713-8049 fax
Received on Friday, 29 January 2010 16:00:21 UTC

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