New commission to agree open data protocol

The government has announced new funding and structures to enable greater release of data from agencies including the Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and Companies House.

The open data movement, led by digital media businesses, calls for release of public information to use for such products as mobile phone applications and online maps. Campaigners say data should be released in raw, so-called open source, form which allows it to be re-used in fresh formats.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said on Monday a new independently chaired Data Strategy Board will advise ministers "on what data should be released and has the potential to unlock growth opportunities for businesses across the UK. At least one in three members of the DSB will be from outside government, including representatives of data re-users."

The DSB will work with the existing Public Data Group, which consists of the so-called Trading Funds the Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House to provide a more consistent approach to improving access to public sector information.

These organisations have already made some data available, which has provided opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs to create imaginative ways to develop or start up their own businesses based on high quality data.

Regional examples include release by Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, now Transport for Greater Manchester, of bus timetables in open source form in 2010

The Government is making £7m available from April 2013 for the DSB to purchase additional data for free release from the Trading Funds and potentially other public sector organisations, funded by efficiency savings. An Open Data User Group, which will be made up of representatives from the open data community, will 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 and release free of charge.

SMEs in particular will benefit from the new structure announced today and the easier access to data it supports. The real-time weather observation and forecast datasets made available for the first time by the Met Office in November are an example of the kind of data that will promote the creation of high-value businesses, while widening the marketplace and empowering the individual citizen.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, who will be jointly responsible for DSB, said: "The Data Strategy Board will play a vital role in expanding the opportunities for economic growth from the data and services provided by the Public Data Group but potentially from other parts of the public sector.

"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. I look forward to listening to their ideas and seeing how they are interpreted by the public."

The DSB will provide evidence on how data from the Trading Funds – including what is released free of charge – will generate economic growth and social benefit. It will act as an intelligent customer advising Government on commissioning and purchasing key data and services from the PDG, and ensuring the best deal for the taxpayer.

Land Registry has already begun releasing monthly Market Trend Data. In addition to the already popular House Price Index, Land Registry added "transaction data" to the information made available through their website in January 2012. By the end of March 2012 it will also include the latest monthly Price Paid information. The newly presented Market Trend Data in January saw a doubling of hits on Land Registry's House Price Index internet pages. Coupled with downloads of the newly available transaction data, this indicates that access to detailed property related data continues to be valued and sought after in the property marketplace.

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