UK government announces Right to Data legislation

Today is an important day for the new transparency agenda as the Cabinet Office website publishes the business plans for all departments. This in itself is a progressive step in making government accountable to citizens. When we look into the plan for the Cabinet Office to increase transparency in the public sector, we find some very encouraging news. Among a series of action tasks with deadlines for departmental moves to greater transparency, mostly in relation to expenditure, there is a commitment to a new “right to data”.

The details are sketchy at present but it seems that between now and March 2011all government departments must have developed a plan to give access to datasets on request, plus they should have identified key sets they will proactively disclose. So far, this fits with the existing work on transparency by current and previous administrations. What is important news is the plan to amend the Freedom of Information Act to include right to data.

This is one of the key policy changes we at ORG believe are necessary to make the Open Data movement a lasting transformation, and not a passing fad. We will be following closely these developments and engage in the debate leading to the changes.

Another important element of the plan is the intention to create a Public Data Corporation to release “high-value” “core reference data for free re-use”. This is a quite revolutionary step towards the recommendations of the so-called Cambridge Study on economic models for the provision of public sector information by trading funds. This is a very welcome move. It remains to be seen how far reaching these changes will in practice and if they fundamentally redefine the Trading Fund profit model for holders of valuable public sector information.