Free Our Data: the blog

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


Today in the Guardian: ‘free data’ ministers still in place, but face uphill challenge

The dust has settled from the ministerial reshuffle of last week, and we’re happy to see that the ministers whose views about access to government data chime with ours – particularly Tom Watson in the Cabinet Office and Michael Wills at the Ministry of Justice – remain in place. Note too that Shriti Vadera, who was at DBERR, now has a higher-profile role which is expected to have quite an impact. (Baroness Vadera, a former City high-flier – remember them? – is understood to hold strong views on, inter alia, making government data more easily accessible.)

In today’s Guardian we note the fact that that hasn’t been shuffled around, and the new challenge that ministers pushing the free data idea face: how do you persuade a government that has just melted down the golden rule in order to quasi-nationalise high street banks at a cost of around £500bn, with what looks like a shrinking economy on the way, that it should forgo hundreds of millions of pounds in tax funding to pay to make data free?

(One answer might be: because it’s cheaper to do that than pay the unemployment benefits and other consequent costs if companies that pay for government data go bust.)

In Free data faces a tough challenge in the new parliamentary season, Michael Cross notes that

Decisions about the future of such trading funds will need to be made soon. A much-delayed government-wide strategy for geographical information is due for publication this autumn. It has spent the past year being bounced between Civil Service desks as its ideas are aligned with Britain’s commitments to open access to environmental data under the EU Inspire Directive. More interesting for the Free Our Data campaign will be the outcome of a review by the government’s Shareholder Executive into the trading fund model.

Oh, yes, that review. Today’s bonus link: Parliamentary Question from the Tories’ shadow minister for innovation and skills, Adam Afriyie: who has the review team met?

The answer:

the Shareholder Executive team has heard the views of around 20-25 stakeholders from the private sector, as well as others from the public and third sectors. The private sector stakeholders have included customers, suppliers and competitors of the trading funds, small UK-based companies, large multinationals and representatives of trade associations and interest groups.

However…

It would not be appropriate to name the organisations individually because their contributions to and comments on the assessment have been to inform advice to Ministers and were on a non-attributable basis.

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