Yesterday Downing Street published a letter from David Cameron setting out the Government’s plans to open up data. Much of the letter is straight from the Conservative manifesto and very little is from the Liberal Democrat one. However, that is not a reason for Liberal Democrats to be nervous – for on these points the Conservative manifesto was more detailed and better than the Liberal Democrat one but laid out policies that could (and should) have happily sat in the Lib Dem one.
The broad principle is one of making data open and convenient:
Given the importance of this agenda, the Deputy Prime Minister and I would be grateful if departments would take immediate action to meet this timetable for data transparency, and to ensure that any data published is made available in an open format so that it can be re-used by third parties. From July 2010, government departments and agencies should ensure that any information published includes the underlying data in an open standardised format.
There is also a very welcome role for Tom Steinberg:
To oversee the implementation of our transparency commitments, a Public Sector Transparency Board will be established in the Cabinet Office, which will be chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude. Board representation will include a mix of external experts and data users, and public sector data specialists; members will include Tom Steinberg, one of the UK’s leading experts on data transparency. The Board will provide support to departments as they deliver on the Government’s transparency commitments set out in this letter. The Board will also be responsible for setting open data standards across the public sector, publishing further datasets on the basis of public demand, and – in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice – will further develop the Right to Data and advise on its implementation.