Monthly Archives: October 2008

Workshop on Finding and Re-Using Information

The Open Knowledge Foundation is organising a workshop on finding and re-using public information which is supported by the PoI Task Force.  For full information see the OKF website entry.

Details are as follows:


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Washington DC Competition and Data Catalog

The District of Columbia in the US is running an interesting competition called AppsForDemocracy along similar lines to our ShowUsABetterWay competition.

Entries are requested for innovations using data that is being offered by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO).

The data is really well presented in a Data Catolog.  This appears to be both very comprehensive and user-friendly fulfilling the requirements we have set out here for an Access Layer.

The Terms of Use are also interesting as they simply add some extra terms specific to RSS feeds and data files onto the normal terms and conditions for using the public website.    The emphasis in both documents is on disclaimers about information quality and liability rather than on any form of copyright enforcement.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


Filed under exemplar, Sources

A Good Postcode Summary

Tom Steinberg on the Task Force has drawn my attention to this very good summary of the situation with postcode data in the UK from the Spatial Miscellany.

A dataset that reliably links postcodes to all the common aggregation boundaries and to geographical coordinates remains a key element of an analysis layer for many uses of public data.

Following comments to an earlier post on this I have been pointed to the National Statistics Postcode Directory.  This appears to be the ideal solution but is not freely available, I assume because it inherits chargeable IP from the Royal Mail and Ordnance Survey elements it uses.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair

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International Development Blogging

I have spent some time looking at the Department for International Development blogging site and am impressed by the way it operates.

The terms and conditions it sets out for users are very clear.

The use of mapping is good, especially given the wide geographical scope of potential posters.

It offers RSS feeds in a clear and prominent way.

And the posts so far have managed to hit a good blog tone of mixing personal impresssions with substantive content.

Well done, DFID.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


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Presentation to Information and Records Management Conference

I presented last week on the PoI agenda at the Information and Records Management conference in Southampton and promised to post my slides on this site in case anyone wanted a copy.  So, here they are…

Power of Information Presentation – Southampton – 16th Oct 2008

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair

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Unlocking the Power of Local Government Information

Having gathered some advice from colleagues, this is our draft recommendation for local councils wanting to follow a Power of Information approach:

– Ensure you have a copyright notice or a licence to tell people what they can and can’t do with your information (which is also your intellectual property). Every local authority owns its own copyrights and database rights. You are required by law (the Public Sector Information regulations) to publish the terms under which your material can be re-used.

– To minimise bureaucracy and cost it makes sense for your information to be available for people to re-use for free under a simple standard licence. The best way to do this is using the plain English “PSI Click-Use Licence”, administered by the Office of Public Sector Information.

– All you need to do is adopt a policy for your Council’s information to be licensed by “The Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office”, who also licences Crown copyright information for the government. This is explained here:

– The wording you will need for the mandate is:

What are the benefits for a local council in taking this approach?

– You have to publish your terms and conditions for re-use by law. This is the cheapest, easiest and  best way to fulfil your statutory obligations, now and into the future. It costs you nothing and you have a long term solution for licensing your copyright material.

– Your information will be re-used by people building services in and for your local community. By allowing this to happen you are helping the community, supporting initiatives to improve education, health, the environment and economic development in your area.

– One free global licence covers all the material you specify. It is quick, simple and enabling – public services at their best!

– If everyone adopts the same approach to licensing, it will be easier for everyone to re-use local authority information – including local authorities themselves! Using the same licence across central and local government means that all our public sector information can be used together more easily and simply.

What problems do you avoid?

– Breaking the law! Councils are often monopoly information holders. If you trade in information you may encounter legal or competition issues as this is a regulated area. For example, by law you cannot enter into any exclusive agreements and you cannot unfairly discriminate between different re-users on price. If you trade unfairly and someone complains, you will be investigated by the Office of Public Sector Information – a process that will take time and cost money.

– Figuring out a price to charge. This isn’t about providing access to information, but the terms and conditions under which people can use that information. The additional cost of letting someone who already has your information, say a document from your website, go on and re-use it, is nil. It costs you nothing to allow re-use for free. This basic fact makes pricing of information re-use very hard to do.

NB If you do opt to trade, taking part in the Information Fair Trader Scheme is a good way of making sure you are doing all the right things. Meeting the standards of IFTS also takes expertise, time and resources.

We’d be interesting in any comments, both positive and negative, on adopting this approach for local government data.

Richard Allan, Task Force Chair


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