Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Catching up: government responds to OFT and Power of Information reports

Should have posted this earlier, but I was wondering whether the disappearance of the DTI would kill the links. (It hasn’t – dti.gov.uk still works, but just has a different name. By their web addresses ye shall know them…)

Anyway, on the last Monday of June the government finally replied to the OFT “CUPI” report on the Commercial Use of Public Information, and to Tom Steinberg’s and Ed May’s Power Of Information report.

The response to CUPI is from the DTI, or as it’s now known the Dept for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. The PDF response is at http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file39966.pdf (78kB).

The Cabinet Office response to the Power Of Information is at a page titled “Power Of Information principles get go-ahead from Government.”

There’s also a “Have your say” page attached to the Cabinet Office page; see what you think.

The key question though: will trading funds be forced to consider themselves? Yes. The government is asking for an investigation into the cost benefit justification for organisations working as trading funds.

We reported this as “Government on the back foot over policies for pricing data“:

The long-awaited reports, from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Cabinet Office, recommend that the government make more data available without strings to community and commercial ventures. The Cabinet Office also paves the way to government sites opening self-help forums for citizens, and civil servants engaging openly in independent forums, blogs and wikis.

Both reports, however, avoid the central demand of Technology Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign – that government should stop running information businesses, and instead give all data away to stimulate the knowledge economy.

On the plus side,

Notably, it urges Ordnance Survey to launch its postponed OpenSpace project, which would provide a Google Maps-like interface for mashups, by the end of December.

However..

However, the response warns that more ambitious steps towards free data could threaten the business of trading funds and their “vital role in the UK economy”. It agrees with the Power of Information review, which says that the government should get hard data from an independent study of the costs and benefits of the trading fund model.

So we’ll ask for an on-the-record ministerial interview once we’ve figured out who, under the new regime, is responsible for Cabinet Office, trading funds and public sector information…

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