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Government’s Data Strategy Board a “fig leaf” to open data, say campaigners

Kathleen Hall

Open data campaigners have hit out at the government’s newly created Data Strategy Board (DSB) as “a fig leaf” to departmental resistance in unlocking data.

The DSB was given £7m to purchase data from public sector bodies for free release and will work with the Public Data Group (PDG) Trading Funds, which comprises the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House.

Jonathan Raper, founder of location services company Placr, said: “The idea the public sector is being given £7m to buy data back from itself is insane and is basically a giant fig leaf to the fact the government will not reform the agencies that have the data. It’s a double taxation and a profound mistake.

“I’ve suggested that whoever chairs this board would be better to buy out existing system integrator contracts rather than wasting money on buying data. I would be surprised if any open data entrepreneurs would be willing to take part in this.”

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights group, said the DSB was a remarkably cautious way of progressing the government’s open data agenda. “This seems a tortuous way to release data and I’m not clear if this model is going to work.

“It’s a bureaucratic tangle and could result in losing the huge gains available for accountability and economic growth, which would be quite appalling,” Killock said.

The government intends to set up an Open Data User Group, which it hopes will comprise representatives from the open data community, who be directly involved in decisions on the release of open data, advising the DSB on what data to purchase from the Trading Funds and other public organisations.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said: “Already data is being interpreted in creative and innovative ways and I will be challenging the board to widen the net in finding new opportunities for the private sector and the public to take advantage of public sector information."

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, said: “The new structure for open data will ensure a more inclusive discussion, including private sector data users, on future data releases, how they should be paid for and which should be available free of charge.


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