Feeds

UK to make FoI data machine readable

New law will make information more accessible

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The government is to change the law so that all data released under the Freedom of Information Act will be fully accessible to computers.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that the Freedom of Information Act will be amended so that all data released through FoI must be in a reusable and machine readable format.

The change in the law will mean that FoI data is "available to everyone and able to be exploited for social and commercial purposes", he said on 3 October 2010.

This means using formats such as .csv, an open spreadsheet format, or .xls, which is used by Microsoft's Excel – but not the portable document format. PDFs can only be opened as visual files, with software such as spreadsheets unable to extract the actual information.

The government's transparency agenda, Maude said, has already ensured that information including the Treasury's Coins spending database, a list of all quango chiefs and civil servants earning more than £150,000 and government tenders which exceed £10,000 has been published.

"We want to go much further," he told delegates. "Thousands of commercial and social entrepreneurs have been frustrated by their inability to obtain and reuse datasets. I'm sorry to say that some councils spend time and money deliberately making data unusable to anyone else."

Research by the Guardian's Data blog has found that only 66 of the 326 councils in England have so far published spending above £500 online, and more than a third have done so only using PDFs – including Europe's largest local authority, Birmingham City Council. They are required to do so by January.

On cutting government spending, Maude said that the Cabinet Office has been renegotiating contracts with its biggest suppliers by dealing with them as a single customer, "instead letting them play one part of government off against another".

He said that contract renegotiations were not yet complete, but that so far the government had saved several hundred million pounds.

A freeze on IT spending, along with advertising, consultants and offices, was confirmed by Maude. Any exceptions have to be referred to him for approval.

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.