The government has been warned not to dump data sets on the public without building a framework to ensure that what it publishes is of genuine use, as Downing Street pushes ahead with its open data agenda.
Speaking at a press event in London, the government's senior transparency adviser, Tim Kelsey, outlined the government's desire to improve the delivery of public services and achieve economic growth by making more data available.
"We want openness to happen as a point of principle, and exemptions should be thought about afterwards. Any data held by a public authority should be considered as having the potential to be made available," he said.
"Transparency is something the government is very committed to, from the prime minister down, and that should follow where the money goes. Wherever public money is spent data should be available."
However, Ian Manocha, managing director of SAS UK, argued that merely dumping information on data.gov is not enough, and that the government should adopt a structured, framework-based approach to ensure that the data is of real value.
"We don't want some huge programme that will slow down [the government's plans] but a framework with minimum standards for the quality of the information and a threshold by which data can be surfaced," he said.
"The important thing is that data.gov does not become a dumping ground for vast data sets that are irrelevant for most people."
Manocha also maintained that the government should think carefully before committing to making data sets available for free, as charging a fee may be more appropriate in certain situations.
Kelsey acknowledged this point and said that the government's decisions on fees will be based on what it considers most likely to generate jobs and revenue for the UK market.
He revealed that the government is to launch a consultation on its open data agenda in the next two weeks during which many of these issues should be hammered out.
"The consultation is very much a green paper consultation, a chance to test ideas and get feedback. There is an enormous economic opportunity here as well as the chance to improve public services and give citizens more choice," he said.
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