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'Transparent' PM dishes up more public datasets

And sprinkles more cash on London's Silicon Roundabout

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The Cabinet Office's digital-by-default mantra got a boost today, with the government promising to publish various datasets on the National Health Service, schools, criminal courts and transport online.

The move forms part of Prime Minister David Cameron's "transparency" agenda to make public bodies more accountable to taxpayers.

"The new data will reveal clinical achievements and prescribing data by individual GP practices, the performance of hospital teams in treating lung cancer and other key healthcare conditions, the effectiveness of schools at teaching pupils across a range of subjects, criminal sentencing by each court, and data on rail timetables, rail service performance, roadworks, current road conditions, car parks and cycle routes in an open format for use by all," reads a statement on the data.gov.uk website.

But the data release isn't just about providing scorecards on individual public sector organisations.

The government is also hoping that developers will wade in to use the datasets, which are to be published in open, standardised formats – and which are available for commercial re-use under the Open Government Licence. That's a move inspired by Cameron and Co's desire to turn the Silicon Roundabout into a money-making machine to help bolster the debt-ridden British economy.

And to underscore that push, the government's Technology Strategy Board announced this morning that it would double the amount of funding available for the so-called Tech City Launchpad initiative in East London.

It now plans to plonk £2m on startups in the Silicon Roundabout, apparently this will gift grants worth £100,000 each to twice as many companies as was originally planned.

"The competition makes the most of the cluster of high tech companies in London, enabling those selected to go further and faster and transform their ideas into commercial reality," said science minister David Willetts.

The government claimed that the Tech City in Old Street and Shoreditch was Europe's "fastest growing technology hub", without providing individual examples of successful startups that are actually making any money out of their ventures.

Either way, 20 companies in the area are about to get a generous lump sum from the cash-strapped government, which appears obsessed with the idea of Britain creating its very own Google.

The catch is that the handouts will need to be matched by an extra £100,000 each from venture capitalists. ®

Bootnote

Surprisingly, the government made no mention today of its planned Public Data Corporation, a framework for which is expected to be announced in the autumn. Up to now, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has been coy about what datasets would be made available under the new corporation.

In fact, the government has been struggling with the name, perhaps in part because the grand name suggests that all its data should be made public. Surely not?

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