The Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has been amended to account for the government's open data strategy and to encourage public sector organisations to increase the number of datasets they make available on data.gov.uk.
According to the amendment, authorities will now be required to publish data in a re-usable format, when responding to FoI requests or when making data available through their publication schemes.
"At present, the data issued by public authorities is raw and often unformed," said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, in a statement on the Protection of Freedoms (PoF) Act, which contains the FoI Act amendments.
"Under the new PoF Act, datasets should be released in a form that can be used and re-used, so it will no longer be necessary to make a separate approach to public authorities to re-use a dataset."
The open data strategy is one that has been pursued by the government since 2009, when then prime minister Gordon Brown appointed two information advisors, Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, 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.
"This government has released an unprecedented amount of data, with around 9,000 datasets available on data.gov.uk - but this is only the start," said Maude.
The minister, who is at the heart of the government's open data strategy, described the latest amendment to the Freedom of Information Act as a "new dimension in government transparency".
The amendment would also deliver better value for money in public spending and bringing increased social and economic benefits from open data, the government claimed.
"[We are] laying data open so that it can be more readily exploited by entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit organisations and others in socially useful and commercially productive ways," Maude added.
The public sector will be expected to fulfil its new requirements from the beginning of next year, said the Cabinet Office.
According to the details given in the amendment, public sector authorities will still be allowed to charge a fee for making datasets available, though.
Recently Shadbolt made calls for the government to move to a "presume to publish" mentality to keep the open data strategy alive.
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