Free Our Data: the blog

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


Government seeks input on flooding review: got an opinion?

The Cabinet Office has set up a “Flooding Lessons Learned Review” site, where you – yes, you, the citizen in front of the computer screen – can comment in a helpful way, one hopes, to prevent this summer’s floods repeating.

The terms of reference says that the “specific objectives” are (emphasis added here):

  1. To understand why the flooding was so extensive.
  2. To learn lessons on how in future we can best predict, prevent or mitigate the scale and impact of flooding incidents in a potentially changing environment.
  3. To look at how best to co-ordinate the response to flooding in future, including the significant social implications for communities.
  4. To establish what access to support, equipment, facilities and information is needed by those involved in the response at local, regional and national levels.
  5. To ensure the public has as much access as possible to information on the risk of flooding to allow them to take appropriate precautions, be adequately informed on developments as an emergency unfolds, and be looked after properly in the immediate aftermath.
  6. To establish how the transition from response to recovery is best managed.
  7. To identify those aspects of the response that worked well and should be promoted and reinforced.
  8. To make recommendations in each of these areas to improve the UK’s preparedness for flooding events in the future.
  9. To make recommendations, drawing on the experience of the flooding incidents, to improve the UK’s broader ability to manage the loss of essential services in any future emergencies.

We’ve already commented on how the Environment Agency restricts access to its flood data – a fact that is complicated, we now learn, by the fact that although the EA is a government-appointed agency, its data is not crown copyright (because it may have to sue government departments, which are “owned” by the Crown, and the monarch can’t sue him/herself. Follow that?) So not only would the Free Our Data campaign have to get trading funds reversed, it would have to get agencies paid by government to put their data under crown copyright. Honestly, it’s one step forward and one back.

Notwithstanding, it would make a lot more sense if the flood map data was simply available to everyone to use and even improve upon. We’ll suggest that in the flood review. You’re welcome to add your own comments on the Flooding Review site.

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