Berners-Lee briefs Brown on opening up government data

15 Sep 2009 View Comments
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Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Berners-Lee is opening up government data

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has visited 10 Downing Street to update Gordon Brown and the Cabinet on the progress of his task to make government data more open and accessible.

The inventor of the web and his colleague Professor Nigel Shadbolt, from the University of Southampton, were asked in June to help open up public data.

Further reading

According to Number 10, Berners-Lee told the Cabinet about the goal of delivering a single online access point to government information, similar to the one introduced by President Obama’s administration in the US.

Prime minister Gordon Brown hopes the project will benefit the UK by creating jobs, driving new economic growth and will allow the re-use of government data to encourage development of new, innovative, information-based businesses and services, according to the Number 10 web site.

Berners-Lee has already given an insight into the likely plans for making government data accessible online, in a document posted on the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) web site in June.

In the paper, he recommended tackling the “low-hanging fruit” first, and said that buy-in to the principles at all levels is essential.

“There are two philosophies to putting data on the web. The top-down one is to make a corporate or national plan, by getting committees together of all the interested parties, and make a consistent set of terms into which everything fits. This in fact takes so long it is often never finished, and anyway does not get corporate or national consensus in the end,” Berners-Lee wrote in the document.

“The other method experience recommends is to do it bottom-up. A top-level mandate is extremely valuable, but grass-roots action is essential. Put the data up where it is: join it together later.”

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