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Government seeks public views on open data, PDC

When the words open, public and data collide

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Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude launched two separate consultations on open data in government and the planned Public Data Corporation (PDC) this morning.

UK taxpayers are being asked to comment on the handling of public data by central and local government.

The Cabinet Office is seeking views from British citizens on the following:

  • how we might enhance a "right to data", establishing stronger rights for individuals, businesses and other actors to obtain data from public service providers;
  • how to set transparency standards that enforce this right to data;
  • how public service providers might be held to account for delivering open data;
  • how we might ensure collection and publication of the most useful data;
  • how we might make the internal workings of government and the public sector more open; and
  • how far there would be a role for government to stimulate enterprise and market-making in the use of open data.

Maude said that such a plan would be a "brave step" by government.

"[B]ut this is the approach we want to take in order to create public accountability and efficiency in our services and to drive economic and social growth."

He also announced, along with Biz minister Edward Davey, the start of public consultation on a data policy for the PDC.

As The Register has previously reported, the PDC is intended to be a one-stop shop for government bodies and data.

Wherein some yet-to-be-determined datasets will be made more freely available at the point of use as long, that is, as such a move doesn't hinder the government's efforts to drive down costs.

Interestingly, Maude and his department continue to weave "affordability constraints" and the Coalition's "growth agenda" together. The PDC won't be immune from that rule, which arguably could stifle the project's main aim of 'OPENNESS' before it even gets off the ground.

Last month, the government tucked the Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Met Office under Vince Cable's business department roof.

At the time, each agency issued statements to reassure customers and taxpayers that their quasi-independent status as individual trading funds wasn't under threat.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office claims that the PDC will create jobs for developers and opportunities for businesses wanted to use the data in their products.

All of which feeds into the government's current preoccupation with the Silicon Roundabout in East London, an area where Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said he hoped would give birth to a new Google ...

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham gave the public consultations' launch a gentle hug.

"I welcome this further initiative towards greater accountability and transparency. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) stands for openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals," he said.

"The information rights regime needs to adapt to the new realities of the digital world, both the demands and the possibilities. We have been working with the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice and will be responding to the consultation."

You can wade in and give your feedback on open data here, and on the PDC plans here. ®

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