The government needs to move to a "presume to publish" mentality to keep its much touted open data strategy alive, according to one of its key information advisors, Nigel Shadbolt.
Shadbolt, together with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, was appointed as information advisor in 2009 by the previous prime minister Gordon Brown to help transform public access to government information.
The two advisors have since created data.gov.uk, a website that allows the public to access all the government's non-personal data.
At a Data Science Summit, hosted by IT storage giant EMC, Shadbolt told V3 there is a danger the public sector will fail to provide the most relevant information, even if it is available.
He said that officials may think they have opened up data on transportation or crime, and not recognise how quickly that data changes and grows.
"The public servant needs to presume to publish," Shadbolt said on Wednesday.
"Unless there is an issue around the privacy of the data then they should publish."
Shadbolt added that the government is only at the start of the open data initiative, and urged the public to ensure they participate to maintain the movement's momentum.
He warned that the data released does not always benefit the government because it often means the public sector has to account for spending or delays in projects.
"We need bigger developer communities to do more interesting things with the data," said Shadbolt.
"We have to keep the currency going even though the data sometimes puts public servants in a difficult place."
Shadbolt added the public also needs to check the data is correct and update the data where necessary.
For example the government released data on the location of bus stops in the UK but 17,000 of them were not where the government thought they were, he added.
The government advisor also noted the challenge of the open data agenda is to know where the boundaries lie and to decide whether the public should have access to personal data on politicians, like their expenses.
"This needs to be an ethical conversation. We need to decide where to draw the boundaries, and this is a highly nation-specific conversation," he said.
"So far we have stayed away from making personal data public but now there is the idea to use anonymised public records for life science research. But we need to make sure the data stays anonymised and the question is, can we ensure that?"
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