Our kind friends in the Office of Public Sector Information stole our thunder at Opentech. Amongst all the other interesting things going on they very quietly announced their new data unlocking service.
The unlocking service in action
The proposition is very simple. If you have any problems accessing public information then you contact OPSI. The way their service works is:
- “You describe the public sector information asset you want unlocked for re-use, and post a request to the service. We’ll check through your request and if it’s OK (e.g. not a Freedom of Information request) we’ll post it here.
- Others can see your request and support it, either by adding a comment or by voting. The more support a request has, the better the chances of unlocking the information you want to re-use.
- We’ll contact the public sector information holder and see what can be done to unlock the information for re-use. To keep things simple, if the problem relates to an issue specifically covered by the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations or the Information Fair Trader Scheme, we’ll treat it accordingly – so you won’t need to make a separate complaint. We’ll post back our findings here.”
Not much more you can add to that list really. A fantastic development that is to be applauded.
A crack team of data ferrets working for the Task Force have returned from their first forays into the bowels of Government. And lo, they come bearing gigabytes of juicy data, most of which is ready to share in handy API format. Check out the Office of National Statistics Neighbourhood Statistics API for an avalanche of local data. Or the NHS Choices API, for those of you who fancy re-using much of the advice available on the NHS website. Or the 47MB of zipped XML making up the last year of official notices Governement and others are required by law to publish in the London Gazette. Or even the contents of EduBase listing the address of every school in England and Wales with details of the headteacher, age range of pupils and school status (e.g. foundation school).
What’s more, the ferrets assure me that there’s more to come…
Edit: Clarified that Edubase is only data from England and Wales
The Shareholder Executive and HM Treasury are undertaking a review of the trading fund model. The terms of reference have been published today. As the review will be including the areas that Tom and Ed suggested, the Taskforce will be assisting with this review, particularly looking at the value of the data held by the funds and whether the current business models and licencing arrangements are sustainable.
There is a wealth of literature in this area, not only the recent study by three Cambridge academics but also various reports on the Ordnance Survey and books by academics such as Yochai Benkler.
If you had to set our priorities what areas would you have us look at? Is there any research we should be looking at? Please kick off the discussion in the comments.