Unlocking the power of information

By Nick Holmes on July 10, 2008
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Filed under Public Sector Information

As regular readers will know, one of my pet subjects is unlocking the power of public sector information, and I’ve actively campaigned for it as it relates to legal information.

The ball is now really rolling on this with the introduction of two new services from government:

From OPSI – Public Sector Information Unlocking Service (beta)

As the regulator for public sector information re-use, we know that people can encounter difficulty from time to time getting hold of the information they need in the formats they want. Such difficulties can include issues with charging, licensing or the data standards that public sector information is provided in.

These issues are not about access (which are dealt with under access legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations), but all the other pitfalls which can occur when you want to do something with public sector information – copy it, remix it with other data or add value and republish it. If you are trying to re-use some public sector information, but the data you need is locked-up, this service is for you.

You can post a request describing the PSI you want unlocked for re-use. Provided it’s approved as on topic, it will be added and others can see your request and support it, either by adding a comment or by voting. OPSI will contact the PSI holder and see what can be done to unlock the information for re-use.

From the Cabinet Office’s Power of Information Taskforce – Show Us a Better Way (Tell us what you’d build with public information and we could help fund your idea!)

This is a competition about information, about communication and above all about making government information more useful.

The government produces masses of information on what is happening around the UK. Infomation on crime, on health, on education. However, this information is often hidden away in obscure publications or odd corners of websites. Data tucked away like this isn’t of use to the ultimate owner of that information YOU.

The Power of Information Taskforce want to hear your ideas on how to reuse, represent, mashup or combine the information the government holds to make it useful.

The Power of Information Task Force was established by Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson MP in March 2008 with a remit to advise and assist the government on delivering benefit to the public from new developments in digital media and the use of citizen- and state-generated information in the UK, including those identified in the Power of Information Review.

To give the more technically minded some raw material and a head start on getting any prototypes up and running, the site includes a listing of the huge quantity of information already available for reuse.