By Daniel Hunter

The private sector and the open data community are to have greater influence over the release of public sector data to encourage the creation of high-value businesses and promote economic growth, the Government announced today (Monday).

A new independently chaired Data Strategy Board (DSB) 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 Public Data Group (PDG) — which consists of 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.

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.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, 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."

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, who will be jointly responsible for the DSB, said:

“This government is a world leader in open data and transparency. We’ve already released over 40,000 data files on data.gov.uk, and this has helped create high-value businesses of real social benefit in the fields of health, transport and weather.

“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.”

Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, Norman Lamb, who will be advised by the PDG, said:

"The organisations in the Public Data Group are world leaders with a wealth of information at their finger tips. By bringing them together as the Public Data Group they will work collaboratively to identify and deliver better and more efficient public services. I'm confident that these organisations will work together to create positive impacts across the economy and I look forward to seeing the results."

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.

This new arrangement will balance the need for more data free at the point of use, while still affordable and providing value for the taxpayer.

Examples of the Trading Funds making data available for use:

- Next month the Met Office will be the European host for the International Space Apps Challenge, an initiative of the Open Government Partnership. Teams at the event will be using free data from the recently launched DataPoint web service. This gives access to operational UK weather data and observations, as well as exploiting other open data sets available from the Met Office and other participating organisations.

- There are several examples of organisations using Ordnance Survey Open Data to create services for public use. These include Lovell Johns creating maps for use on the Amazon Kindle, and the development of iCoast, a map-based website that provides information about coast and marine based recreational activities. Open Data encourages the development and use of the maps and data available for innovative applications and services.

- 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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