Free Our Data: the blog

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


We’re going to see the minister..

Perhaps the Free Our Data concept is getting some consideration in ministers’ minds. One of the first thing that Michael Wills did on being promoted to his new job at the Department of Justice was to ring us up and ask for a meeting.

Eh? Ministers calling journalists? Quite a turnaround. Not even his private office, but the man himself.

As a result we’re going to see him later this week, to make our case formally – and, perhaps, to see if there’s any formal response beyond that on the OFT’s Commercial Use of Public Information report, and perhaps the Cabinet Office response on the Power of Information.

Among the examples we’re planning to use re government making things free providing a boost to commercial sectors:

  • GPS: the US government-funded Global Positioning System costs about $400m to run per year, but underpins a huge business reliant on its positioning data
  • museums: the Labour administration made admission to museums free. Why? To encourage more people to go to them. (The Conservatives propose to reverse it.. perhaps) It has led to more visits (though Hazel Blears points out that it’s not all been encouraging .. but a letter in June from senior museum directors says they like it – but that it needs funding. (Has anyone analysed the economic effects of 30m extra visits to museums – as in the train and bus journeys, the gifts bought, and so on?)
  • the examples of South Africa, Canada and New Zealand in making at least some of their data free

Anyone else with the sort of arguments that would help a minister persuade the Treasury to unzip the purse strings and give the information economy an extra boost? Your suggestions – with sources, please – welcome.

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