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Government launches open data consultation to drive transparency agenda

04 Aug 2011

The government has launched a consultation to gather feedback on its Transparency and Open Data strategy to ensure that it reaps the maximum benefit from opening data to the public.

The consultation is aimed at businesses, citizens, public sector bodies and interested groups, and will gather opinions on how to ensure that data is made available, how it could stimulate business, and whether standards are needed to control data releases.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude claimed that the consultation will help the UK government to become one of most open in the world.

"We want to be open about what we do. Open about what we spend. Open about how public services work. Open about making them better. And so we propose reform of the whole of the public sector along open, transparent and accountable lines," he said.

"What we are doing is not just a first for Britain; these proposals represent our determination to have the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world."

However, Maude added that the government is aware of the privacy implications of making more data publicly available, and stressed that privacy will be at the heart of the drive to transparency.

"It is my intention that no personal data will be shared with any third party as part of this initiative," he said.

"We will consider this issue in further detail, in particular the use of anonymisation and pseudonymisation techniques to protect personal data."

Information commissioner Christopher Graham welcomed the announcement and confirmed that the regulator will respond to the consultation.

"The information rights regime needs to adapt to the new realities of the digital world, both the demands and the possibilities. We have been working with the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice and will be responding to the consultation," he said.

The government was warned by analytics firm SAS at an event in July that it must not merely "dump" datasets on public sector web sites to achieve its aims, and that more careful work will be needed to draw value from the data sets.

"A framework with minimum standards for the quality of the information and a threshold by which data can be surfaced [is vital]," said Ian Manocha, managing director of SAS UK, at the event.

"The important thing is that does not become a dumping ground for vast data sets that are irrelevant for most people."

The consultation closes on 27 October, and more information is available on the web site.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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