Free Our Data: the blog

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

Archive for the 'General' Category

In The Guardian: surgeons’ deathrates online (but not for reuse)

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The more things seem to change with government-collected information, the more they really stay the same. The latest example: surgeons’ deathrates, which will be made public under a new NHS scheme.

Except that, as we point out in NHS plans to reveal surgeons deathrates online in today’s Guardian, the data won’t be in a very usable form (at a guess, it’ll be a stack of PDFs – not even Excel files). And you’ll be banned from reusing it in any meaningful way.

It’s all of a part with the NHS Choices website, which will have the data:

NHS Choices is one of the government’s most lavish web projects, designed with web 2.0 very much in mind. Among other services, it promises “a social network for health”. A strategy published earlier this year says: “When people want to comment directly on their experiences of particular services, whether positive or negative, NHS Choices will become their first port of call.” The two-way information flow “will empower people to make informed decisions about their health and social care”.

However, while the strategy enthuses about the power of information in the new web world, it makes no mention of allowing re-use in mashups and commercial ventures. The site’s terms and conditions themselves suggest such use is out of bounds: “For your own personal non-commercial use you may copy, download, adapt or print off copies of the materials, information, data and other content included on NHS Choices (‘NHS Choices content’). You will need to obtain permission in writing from us before you make any other use of NHS Choices content.”

Now, let’s be clear that surgeons’ deathrates are easily misinterpreted. Someone who only ever does grommets isn’t going to have the sort of patient deathrate that someone doing open-heart surgery or brain surgery might. (There’s even an argument that what matters isn’t the operating-table mortality, but the 30- or 60-day mortality, since this tells you how well the patient recovered from everything.)

Nevertheless deathrates have a basic utility: it could have helped, for instance, to more quickly identify the Bristol heart babies’ abnormally high deathrates.

Then again, the BBC article linked to there is from 1998 – that’s ten years ago, folks – and in it, we’re told that “ministers believe the system [to make patient death rates at hospitals public, slightly different from this latest scheme] will become a powerful tool to raise standards and share information on the NHS.”

Kind of hard if people can’t reuse it easily. And also: “it could also work as an early warning system to prevent cases similar to that of Bristol.”

The data will need to have extra information, clearly, about what sort of operations were being done; simply saying “Surgeon X: deathrate Y” is inimical and useless. We’ll have to see..

Is there a Valuation Office portal? No. Can we have one? No. Why not?…

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

An interesting exchange in the Commons between MarK Todd, who has some interest in matters of data availability (though we must point out he disagrees with the free data theorem – though, then again, he hadn’t finished reading the Cambridge economics report when we spoke to him earlier this week).

So here’s his first question (a written answer – Alastair Darling didn’t answer in the chamber)

Mark Todd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements exist for the Valuation Office Agency to make the council tax list for England and Wales available to third parties for value-added use; and if he will make a statement.

The written answer, from the Financial Secretary, HM Treasury:

Jane Kennedy: Council tax valuation lists for England and Wales are available to search on the Valuation Office Agency’s website at no cost. Full copies of lists are not otherwise available without a statutory gateway.

OK, then: on 16 May, another written PQ and answer:

Mark Todd: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 6 May 2008, Official Report, columns 817-8W, on council tax: valuation, whether a statutory gateway will be introduced.

Jane Kennedy: Statutory gateways exist in so far as they are provided by Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 and other legislative provisions. This Department has no current plans to introduce further gateways.

I asked Mark Todd what the thrust of these questions was. He explained that he has constituents who are interested in finding out the value of houses in areas. They can get that data from local councils, in the form of the council tax valuations (which date back years). Except you can’t get it in bulk – unless you go in person to the council.

So there’s no obstacle to getting the information. The obstacle is to getting it in bulk. And the government isn’t going to make it easier to get. This is puzzling to Mr Todd. And to us, to be honest. There’s value there, but it’s being kept under wraps.

Why? The Post Office is in dire straits because too few companies are using its services to send letters. Companies that want to sell you stuff like addresses of people who fit their demographics. Yes, you can call it junk mail – but it’s easy to ignore. (I got a ton because I had a planning application on my house: lots of companies picked that up and sent me letters advertising their wares.) Even so, it’s all money for the Post Office.

Mr Todd will, we suspect, pursue this strange reluctance on the part of the government to find ways to make a bit of money from its information. He may think it should sell it. We think it would make better sense to make it free and let companies benefit from using it. But even if the ends are different, we have a common cause. We’ll watch this with interest.

Free Our Data: now on Twitter

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

You may or may not have heard of Twitter, which creates a social network (sorry) around sending SMS-length messages via the web or mobile. The idea is that you can send messages to the world in general, or communicate publicly with friends, or privately with friends. You can think of it as real-time micro-blogging (ie, very short but to the minute).

If you want to understand more about the service (which is free), you can read Making the most of Twitter, at the Guardian.

But the point here is that there is a Free Our Data twitter account, which will principally be used for notifying when there are new blog posts here. (We tend to note any stories on the Guardian too, though I may add that to the feed.) It shouldn’t be overwhelming. And we’ll aim to follow those who follow us, so that we know what’s going on.

You’ll find the page at (Congratulations Ian Sealy – our first follower!)

In today’s Guardian: the problem with route data for glider pilots

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Today in the Guardian, with Access to data needs to take off, we look at the slightly unusual (in the context of this campaign) case of glider pilots, in particular, and the hassles that they have in trying to load flight data, in particular about where they may and may not fly.

The wrinkle being that the data is available – but not in a convenient machine-readable format that they could load into their GPS-based systems. And responsibility for deciding whether to do that is split between the Civil Aviation Authority – which is a government-appointed regulator – and National Air Traffic Services, a privatised organisation in which the government is the largest minority shareholder, along with commercial airlines and staff.

The point being, if you want someone to do something that would streamline things, where do you press?

Britain must love flying. How else to explain the fact that the space over the north of London is, as Andrew Watson puts it, “one of the most complicated bits of three-dimensional airspace on the planet”? And as the spokesman for National Air Traffic Services (Nats), which looks after air traffic control for commercial services, notes, there’s also the south of England, home to commercial airports such as Heathrow, “executive” airports such as Biggin Hill and Farnborough, and 60-odd other airports used by pilots of light aircraft, parachutists, hang-gliders and gliders. It’s very, very busy.

But as Watson, a glider pilot, points out, that busy-ness leads to a peculiar conflict over data. Specifically, useful access to data about where you may and may not fly in the UK. And with about 10,000 glider pilots and 3,000 gliders in the UK making some 500,000 flights a year and able to range across the country during a single flight – that access to data matters.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the rules about who can fly where. As Watson explains: “The UK is covered by a three-dimensional pattern of airspace into which various kinds of aircraft may or may not be allowed to enter.” All pilots must carry a chart showing that 3D space if they fly more than five miles from their airfield. (In practice, they all carry the authoritative CAA chart, published annually.)

That might seem straightforward – except that the boundaries can change from week to week or even day to day. That means pilots must check the CAA and Nats websites for the “Notices to Airmen” (or Notams, which presumably apply to female pilots too) about temporary airspace restrictions.

What Watson finds perplexing is that though you need to know those airspace “boundaries” – which are unrelated to commercial mapping data – the CAA does not publish machine-readable versions.

It’s a fiendishly complex situation, though what’s really puzzling is why NATS and the CAA, which would benefit from glider (and other private) pilots being able to get this data easily into their machines (without the possibility of transcription errors), preventing dozens of intrusions into controlled airspace every year, don’t do it.

Then again, it’s a funny world, flying. As I learnt while researching it, Nats and the CAA don’t accept GPS as a navigation device. Why? “Because it’s intentionally degraded,” I was told (by Nats). That is, your position isn’t perfectly accurate. But only to 10m, surely? Or even 100m? Is that really going to make all the difference when you’re thousands of feet (or metres) up?

So here’s the Ordnance Survey’s public task, for the record

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Since we asked where the Ordnance Survey (OS) public task is, we’ve been pointed to it. (Thanks again, Dan.)

So we thought that, since it seems elusive elsewhere on the web, we’d put it here for the record. And for the record, this is extracted directly from the report of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government. No doubt there’s some copyright issue, but we can’t quite see why acknowledging a source and repeating it correctly, in brief, is a problem, especially with an organisation that we (as citizens) own.

So here’s the PDF of the Ordnance Survey public task; and below, the HTML. If you spot any errors, please tell us and we’ll aim to correct them.

(From the written evidence to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, Fifth report of session 2007-8, printed January 21 2008)

Ordnance Survey’s Public Task is to:

— Collect and maintain uniform datasets with national coverage forming the official record of the natural and built environment of Great Britain, containing:

— detailed mapping of the built and natural landscape (topography);86

— high resolution address data;

— transport networks (including road, rail, waterways, tracks and paths);

— terrain and height data;

— administrative and electoral boundary information; and

— geographical names (including features with imprecise extents such as “Dartmoor”, “The Cotswolds”, “Forest of Bowland”, “South Downs” etc).

— Provide a nationally consistent cartographic portrayal of the topography of Great Britain at various scales including large scales.

— Maintain a definitive three-dimensional satellite-based geodetic87 reference framework of Great Britain that underpins the national datasets and facilitates the integration and analysis of location-based information from many sources.

— Make the content of the datasets widely available in forms that are accessible to customers of all types for wider benefit. This will be in the form of products which are the direct output of those datasets. As part of its Public Task and in order to fulfil its trading fund obligations, Ordnance Survey will charge all customers for the licensing and use of its products.

— Conduct its activities efficiently and effectively to maximise the broader economic value of its data, whilst complying with trading fund requirements.

— Ensure that its data is capable of supporting the principles underlying the Digital National Framework in underpinning the association and integration of third party geospatial information.

In order to fulfil its Public Task, Ordnance Survey is required to collect and maintain topographic data at the following scales:

— High Change Geographies88: 1:1250

— Rural Areas89: 1:2500

— National cover: 1:10000, 1:25000, 1:50000, 1:250000

The above datasets are required to fulfil Ordnance Survey’s Public Task to ensure that a comprehensive, nationally consistent version of each exists in the public interest.

Annex 1A sets out:

— Ordnance Survey’s datasets which fulfil its Public Task;

— the products that are currently the direct output of those datasets; and

— the rationale for including the various data within the Public Task.

The minimum levels of accuracy and revision required for those datasets are at Annex 1B.

The referencing systems and data collected and maintained by Ordnance Survey contribute to the development and integration of geographic and location based information collected and used by government, business and individuals.

As the National Mapping Agency of Great Britain, Ordnance Survey represents Great Britain overseas as experts on Survey, Mapping and Geographic Information. It provides a focus for the provision of public sector information into pan-European and international collaboration by National Mapping Agencies and the European Directive on the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE).

In discharging its Public Task, Ordnance Survey:

— Seeks to maximise both the accessibility of, and the broader economic benefit arising from the use of the data. It therefore creates products directly from these datasets and makes them available, including through commercial licensing, to government and business customers and consumers.

— Takes into account the views of customers (as well as, inter alia, technological changes and its trading fund requirements) to ensure that the range and content of these products meets their changing needs, and makes changes to content, accuracy and revision policies as may be necessary to ensure that the datasets and products remain fit for purpose. This may result in adding or withdrawing products from availability from time to time, as well as enhancing content andfunctionality.


86 Topography: Including defining the surface shape and composition of the landscape, comprising both natural and artificial features.

87 Geodetic: Relating to the scientific discipline that deals with the precise measurement and representation of the earth, its gravitational field, and other related phenomena. Within Ordnance Survey geodetic-quality information forms the high precision framework that ensures the correct positioning of all mapping and other data against the National Grid.

88 Predominantly urban areas and areas of significant development.

89 Predominantly rural settlements and developed agricultural land.

Where is Ordnance Survey’s public task set out, exactly? And why is it paying an external PR company? (updated)

Monday, May 12th, 2008

As Mike Cross has posted, there is some interesting triangulation going on through Parliamentary questions on how the Ordnance Survey’s public task was determined. (There seems to be a groundswell of questions from Conservative MPs inquiring into it.) These are generally batted away with standard civil service responses – basically saying “well, we did it how we did it.”

So we wondered: where can the OS’s public task document be found?

Not on the OS website, where you simply find

For the purposes of the PSI regulations, Ordnance Survey’s Public Task is defined as embracing everything we do from time to time to fulfil our obligations under the Ordnance Survey Trading Fund Order 1999 (SI 99/965) and the Ordnance Survey Framework Document 2004.

This is akin to saying “whatever we do, it’s a public task, because we do it.”

Nor on the Shareholder Executive site (the SE is the government arm which determines what its trading fund should do), where the relevant page says:

Ordnance Survey’s objective is to deliver its Public Task. This can be summarised [emphasis added – CA] as to:

  • collect and maintain uniform geographic datasets with national coverage, and provide nationally-consistent mapping

  • maintain a definitive three-dimensional satellite-based geodetic reference framework to enable correct positioning of mapping and other data against the National Grid
  • ensure that its data is capable of supporting the principles underlying the Digital National Framework, to allow integration and association with other geospatial information
  • make the content of its datasets widely available in forms that are accessible to all customers for wider benefit, and charge its customers for the licensing and use of its products
  • conduct its activities efficiently and effectively to maximise the broader economic value of its data, while complying with trading fund requirements and creating long-term shareholder value.
  • Yes, that’s an improvement, but we don’t want summarised – we want full. Where is it? Anyone?

    (Bonus link: OS has paid an organisation called Mandate £42,076.20 + VAT (that’s £49.400) since August 2007 for “consultancy and advice on Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.” Interesting to see that Mandate says that its skills in public affairs includes “Winning over the decision makers who matter”.

    Wonder why OS would think it needs those services?)

    Update: Dan MacDonald has provided a pointer to the OS’s public task in the comments – but he points out that “it’s only available if you trawl thru’ the pdf version of the evidence given at“. Thanks, Dan.

    Crime mapping for London, Boris? We’ll start the clock now

    Monday, May 5th, 2008

    Boris Johnson’s election as mayor of London means that we can see how committed – and effective – the Tories are in their claims to want to provide more data from councils and government to the public.

    Among the pledges made by Johnson as part of his election campaign was to introduce crime mapping to London.

    David Cameron, the Tory leader, wants every police force in the country to record every crime online, every month, in map form. There’s also a pamphlet (PDF) on their proposals.

    How long will it take in London, Boris was asked? “We’ll start on day one, I’ll go to the Met and say listen, this is a fantastic idea…let’s see what we can do to put this on the web so people can look at exactly what’s going on in their neighbourhood, and use that tool to drive down crime.”

    David Davis, shadow home secretary, says “the police will get a massive reduction in red tape, targets..”

    Given that Boris didn’t get the final say-so until midnight on Friday, and Monday May 5th is a holiday, perhaps Tuesday will be the “day one” when he’ll stroll into New Scotland Yard and mention this. We’ll keep count. (Apparently he went to work on Monday. So the clock is well and truly started.)

    If it arrives, it’ll certainly be a win for free data. Interesting questions: will it be on Google Maps or Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace, or some other provider’s maps? Will it be redistributable? What sort of copyright will it have?

    The proposals have considered privacy issues, and suggest:

    We believe

    there should be three kinds of map for each area for three categories of offences:

    (a) where privacy is less of an issue: at their exact location with a pinpoint showing exactly where the offence occurred;
    (b) where privacy might be an issue: identifying a 300 metre long street section within which an offence occurred; and
    (c) where privacy is an issue: identifying the nearest whole street within which an offence occurred.

    (Assaults would be in category (a); sexual attacks and domestic violence in (c), for example.)

    The copyright issue – and reusability – may have been determined: from the pamphlet:

    As our new regime spreads more crime information into the public arena, we expect people will want to create their own crime maps on the web of their own neighbourhood. That will be a matter for individuals, social entrepreneurs, Neighbourhood Watches and others. Once the appropriate statistics are freely available, it would be comparatively simple from a technical point of view for citizens themselves to overlay the statistics onto an online street map. There are already many different mapping systems of the UK available to the public online, including Yahoo, Google, and Streetmap.

    But what about that terrible ogre for Britons – house prices?

    It is sometimes pointed out that crime mapping, in identifying areas of high crime, affects the level of house prices in those areas. In fact, crime mapping can actually raise house prices if identifying areas where crime is rising then leads to effective action being taken to cut crime. In our view crime mapping will provide a clear and powerful incentive to affected residents to complain and insist on effective crime fighting solutions to reduce the crime. And when crime is reduced this typically increases house prices – rather than the reverse.

    So, we’ll start the clock tomorrow at 8am, when mayors ought to be arriving in their offices to start work.

    A national address gazette – but copyright problems persist

    Saturday, April 19th, 2008

    Today’s Guardian notes the arrival of the NLPG (national land and property gazetteer) in a commercial form, created by local authorities and Intelligent Addressing.

    Yours, for

    between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. Profits will be shared among local authorities to help them keep data up to date.

    So let’s delve briefly:

    The gazetteer is not the only address database on the market. The state-owned Ordnance Survey also offers addresses as part of its MasterMap digital geographical database of Britain.

    Depending where you stand, this is either healthy competition or a wasteful duplication of effort. In recent years, a tortuous dispute over the licensing of intellectual property in state-generated address databases has exposed some of the damaging consequences of public agencies trying to compete with each other in the information business. Last year, the dispute exposed a hole at the heart of the government’s information strategy when the Advisory Panel for Public Sector Information said it was unable to rule on the matter.

    So what do we advise?

    Technology Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign urges a simple solution – that a taxpayer (or otherwise centrally funded) basic database of addresses be made available to all comers, for free. Despite some advances in the campaign, including the support of the Cabinet Office minister responsible for government IT, we have a long way to go.

    Trading Funds report will be released with the budget… and…

    Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

    We’ve heard from an impeccable source that the trading funds report will be released on budget day. We’re not sure which of them is the bad news that’s being buried by the other…

    But what we have heard is that its recommendations will be encouraging about the idea of making raw data available for re-use at marginal cost – and that it’s thought that won’t have an effect on their efficiency. A suggestion like that will probably not delight Ordnance Survey, which has resisted the suggestion that it ever does anything in a raw-vs-processed way.

    More once we get our hands properly on the report. But to keep you warm, here’s a quote from the conclusion: “Any of the major pricing policies considered in this report can be implemented without adverse effects on the efficiency and performance of the trading fund affected.” 


    FoD on FB

    Friday, March 7th, 2008


    At the suggestion of a regular reader, we’ve started a Facebook group. (A bit behind the curve, perhaps, but no one can accuse us of being slaves to fashion.) The group’s at and, in the general spirit of free data, it’s all yours, folks.




    Susskind steps down

    Tuesday, February 19th, 2008


    The government’s chief adviser on public sector information has decided to move on.

    Richard Susskind, chair of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information, says: “I have decided to step down as chair of APPSI. My last meeting will be in mid-April, which will have been five years; two more than was intended. It has been a fascinating and productive period but I think it is time for me to move on.” 



    Questions arising from a talk to Kingston University: UKHO and politicians

    Friday, February 15th, 2008

    I gave a talk on Wednesday to some students at Kingston University as part of their course on “Contemporary Issues in GIS”. They’ve got quite a speaker list – next week it’s Ed Parsons (ex-Ordnance Survey, now Google) and in June they’ve got Vanessa Lawrence OBE, chief executive of Ordnance Survey. Previous to me they had heard from Surrey Satellites (which is interested, of course, in the possibility of Galileo getting the go-ahead). Big Wave : Porthcurno(photo from Flickr by wurz)

    Anyhow, the video of the talk may be available at some time in the future. But for now, there were two questions that came up, one hard, one easy, which I thought summed up the present position.

    The hard question: if you make UK Hydrographic Office’s marine data free, won’t you get all the foreign organisations who used to pay for those charts taking a free ride, at the expense of the UK taxpayer?

    (A part-answer I didn’t think of at the time is that we’re only talking about making the electronic data free; paper charts would still be charged for, at cost.)

    Which raises a question I don’t know the answer to: what proportion of UKHO’s revenues comes from sales of its data to overseas organisations? And what proportion of the mapping it does is of waters outside UK territorial waters?

    The easy question: what’s the main obstacle to moving to a free data model? Simple – politics. There isn’t the political will there at the moment, and everyone’s reluctant to be the one who might subsequently be regarded as the person who broke this nice system.

    Except that didn’t exactly hold anyone back over railway privatisation or the poll tax, nor even the privatisation of Qinetiq, did it?

    DCLG Select Committee snipes at Ordnance Survey; MoD says why not split it up?

    Thursday, February 7th, 2008

    The report from the Commons Select Committee on Communities and Local Government looking into Ordnance Survey’s licensing and business model – a followup from 2002 – is now published.

    It’s an interesting read, not least for some of the implications of what is said, and also for the repeated refrain that runs underneath: the government’s created a bit of a monster; but it doesn’t have any adequate way to un-monster it, unless it does what the Ministry of Defence suggests in its written evidence, split it:

    Perhaps it is time for OS to split in two to have a government funded national geographic database capability and a separate commercial arm which exploits that data, with the same licence conditions as applied to any other commercial user. As the MOD is not a commercial competitor it has not been affected by this aspect of the OS role.

    Now what’s interesting about that, of course, is that the government-funded NGD organisation would be, well, government-funded. OK, so there’s not a “free data” exploitation, but it’s a start.

    The committee does recommend that OS’s accounts be made more transparent, to show how much of its costs come from the NGD work, and how much from exploiting that work. OS says it’s discussing this with the Office of Fair Trading (whose CUPI report suggested a similar split, along the lines of “refined” and “unrefined” data – which OS says doesn’t apply to its work). But there’s no timetable for a change, nor yet an indication of whether OS will adopt either suggestion.

    There’s a brief story in the Guardian’s Technology section – “MPs rap Ordnance Survey’s ‘complex and inflexible’ licences” – , but there wasn’t really space to go into the points made – particularly in the evidence – in any detail.

    But the evidence is fascinating for the picture it gives. The private company Getmapping, for example, charges that

    competing with the OS in the imagery market has been a dangerous, frustrating and uncertain process

    and believes that

    OS is competing unfairly in the imagery market. We think that OS can do this because the boundaries between its national interest and its commercial activities are not well defined and because there is no effective regulator to whom we can appeal for help. Had OS taken notice of the recommendations of the previous 2002 Select Committee report then we think that many of our current problems would have been avoided.

    We’re now all agog for the trading funds report that was commissioned by the Ministry for Justice all those months ago, which some have suggested to us might be published in time for the Budget (March 12). However, since it’s highly unlikely – even if the report suggested that all trading funds should be put under a direct taxation model (or, insanely, privatise them all), there wouldn’t be time to act on them by the budget. So the timing of the budget probably isn’t going to change the timetable. We’re still in it for the long haul, but the committee’s report has turned up some interesting grumblings within government about the way that OS is forced to cover its costs.

    Tell us: what aspects of the conclusions or evidence do you find most interesting?

    OS makes OpenSpace open to all. However..

    Thursday, January 31st, 2008

    Having had a closed “alpha” session of its OpenSpace mapping API (application programming interface), Ordnance Survey is now opening it up to everyone – well, everyone who’s not going to use it commercially.

    From today, anyone who registers at the OS OpenSpace website can access up to 30,000 “tiles” or extracts of data and up to 1,000 placename lookups a day. Users can add markers, lines and polygons on top of Ordnance Survey mapping, search for place names with a gazetteer and display other location data from elsewhere on the Web.

    The platform is a JavaScript API that uses “slippy map” technology, so users can grab and move images in different directions. As well as the API itself, OS OpenSpace will include a community website so developers can discuss, review and collaborate on projects.

    You can register as an OpenSpace developer at

    The problem is of course that those 1,000 placename lookups and 30,000 tiles will get used up pretty quickly for any successful site. The irony is that any site where OpenSpace has a big impact won’t be able to use it as the success grows – as was pointed out previosuly.

    Also: no ads (so what about Google’s AdSense or Yahoo’s ad network?). And of course the copyright in any product you create remains partly (perhaps wholly..) with OS.

    So far and yet so.. not far.

    New advisers

    Thursday, January 31st, 2008


    The Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information has made some interesting new appointments. Here’s today’s press release:


    Thursday 31 January 2008 15:01
    Ministry of Justice (National)

    Appointment of eight new members to Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information

    Appointment of eight new members to Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information Minister of State for Justice, Michael Wills, today announced the appointment of eight new members to the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information.

    The Minister of State for Justice, Ministry of Justice (Michael Wills) said: “The new members of APPSI bring with them a wealth of experience and real passion for the subject and I am confident they will be able to play a major role in informing our information policy approach.

    I would also like to thank the outgoing members who have played an active role particularly in the successful UK implementation of the EU Directive on Re-use of Public Sector Information.”

    Professor Richard Susskind, Chair of APPSI, said:

    “I am delighted to welcome our new members to APPSI. They are a remarkably expert and experienced group and they will help us greatly in fulfilling our role as the main advisers to Ministers on the re-use of public sector information. Now is an especially challenging and important time for the UK’s information industries and for PSI managers, and I intend that our strengthened team at APPSI will continue to encourage the public and private sectors to realise the value of PSI”.

    The eight new members, who are appointed initially for three years, are:

    Neil Ackroyd

    Neil Ackroyd is the Executive Director responsible for Data Collection and Management at the Ordnance Survey. Prior to joining the public sector he was employed by the GPS & Location Based Services company Trimble. He is the author of many papers. He is appointed as a Representative Member for trading funds.

    Christopher Corbin

    Christopher Corbin has 47 years experience working in the private, public and self employed sectors. He has an Information, Communication and Technology background. He is currently completing an assignment as an Analyst within the European Commission ePSIplus Thematic Network that supports the implementation of the European Directive on Public Sector Information Re-use. He is appointed as an expert member on Geospatial Information.


    Dr Eric Davies is currently Consulting Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Information Science at Loughborough University. His experience of professional library practice includes over 25 years in academic library management. His main interests lie in statistics and performance assessment. He is appointed as a Representative Member for the Library and University community.

    John Gray

    John Gray has enjoyed lengthy periods of employment in both the Public and Private sectors of the UK economy. He currently divides his interests between a mix of executive and non-executive Board appointments with business concerns and trade associations that enjoy an active interface in the re-use of public sector information. He is appointed as an Expert Member to cover Digital Content.

    Hilary Newiss

    Hilary Newiss was a partner and Head of Intellectual Property at a city firm of solicitors. Since leaving the city she has concentrated on public service and policy in the Intellectual Property, health/science and technology fields. She has served on the Human Genetics Commissions for 6 years and the Intellectual Property Advisory Committee. She is appointed as an Expert Member to cover Intellectual Property issues.

    Michael Nicholson

    Michael Nicholson is Managing Director of Intelligent Addressing Ltd, which initially helped develop a local authority-led dataset called the National Land & Property Gazetteer. He is currently Chair of the Locus Association, a body of private sector companies concerned by the re-use of PSI. He is appointed as an Expert Member to cover Geospatial Information

    Shane O’Neill

    Shane O’Neill is Commercial Director of the BMJ Group, a worldwide leader in healthcare information, and founder of a leading Public Sector Information strategic consultancy business (Shane O’Neill Associates). His career has focussed on information publishing. Shane has also been consulted by and worked on behalf of several Government organisations to help them implement their PSI policies and procedures. He is appointed as an Expert Member to cover Digital Content.

    Phillip Webb

    Phillip Webb was Chief Executive of the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) from 2001 until his retirement in March 2007. During a life long career in ICT he has acquired a wealth of high-level experience in information management within academia and government research organisations. He is appointed as an expert Member to cover Information Communications Technology.

    Notes to Editors

    1. APPSI is an independent non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice, set up in 2001. It has responsibility for advising Ministers about opportunities for greater re-use of public sector information. It also advises the Director of the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) about changes and opportunities in the information industry. Under the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, APPSI has a role in reviewing complaints. More information on the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information is available from its web site,

    2. The appointments were made in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

    3. The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) is at the heart of information policy, setting standards, delivering access and encouraging re-use of public sector information at

    4. Ministry of Justice, Press Office, Constitution Desk.

    Client ref 153/08

    GNN ref 156994P