Campaigners hit out against government open data plans

Public sector IT

Campaigners hit out against government open data plans

Kathleen Hall

Open data campaigners have hit out at the government’s decision not to make all its datasets publicly available under new measures to push through its open data agenda.

On Tuesday 28 November 2011, the government announced plans to release new public datasets, including information on healthcare, travel and the weather.

As part of the plans, a Public Data Group (PDG) has been created to house information from the Met Office, Companies House, the Land Registry and Ordnance Survey. The PDG is the new name for the Public Data Corporation (PDC), proposed earlier this year to create opportunities for developers, businesses and members of the public to make use of public sector data.

But under the plans, many key datasets will remain locked, such as the national address dataset held by the Ordnance Survey. Companies are currently still forced to pay between £16,562 to £132,599 in order to access the OS Address Point database. 

Malcolm Barclay, a freelance software developer for iPhone apps, said access to the national address database would be of huge value to companies across the country. “When you compare the government’s release of open data to countries overseas, we have a long way to go. At the moment the position of agencies such as the Ordnance Survey stifles innovation,” he said. 

Jonathan Raper, CEO of the location-based services startup Placr, said the government has so far only released a handful of key datasets. “There’s a turf war going on in government, with the Cabinet Office very keen to push ahead with open data and individual departments defending their power base,” he said. “The announcement shows that the Met Office and Companies House have come over to open data, but there’s still a lengthy battle with other departments.”

The Cabinet Office said the government would give its official response to its public consultation on the public data corporation, now the PDG, in January.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt, co-head of the Open Data Institute, said the release of open data will create a large stimulus to the UK’s economy. “Myself and Tim Berners-Lee have always been clear that government datasets should be made freely available,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Andreas Photography/Flickr

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