Government to spend £8m to increase benefits of open data for businesses

By Sooraj Shah
12 Dec 2012 View Comments
The Cabinet Office in London

The government has pumped £8m of new investment into funds and improvements that aim to help public bodies release data so that companies can develop commercial opportunities for that data.

The investment will further enhance the government's Open Data policy, which has gathered pace this year with the formal announcement of the Open Data Institute, which is co-directed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

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"This new funding will help us to exploit the power of open data to fuel social and economic growth. It will free up more data for commercial exploitation and help drive innovation in public services," said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

The funding runs to 2015 and is divided into three different areas.

The first is a new £7.5m Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund, to which public sector bodies can apply. It aims to help government departments, agencies and local authorities with necessary funding to release data where there are short term technical barriers to data release.

Secondly, improvements will be made to the format in which Ordnance Survey geographical data can be downloaded, which will make it easier, more accurate and more flexible for companies to use.

Finally, a new £850,000 Open Data Immersion Programme will be initiated, with the  aim of providing support to companies looking to reuse data to develop ideas for new products and services. It will be part of a series of different themed events and competitions run by the Open Data Institute to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to work with data owners to better understand the business opportunities different data sets provide.

The government said that competition winners will be eligible to take their concepts into early product development with a £20,000 to £25,000 investment, with more details on this to be announced next year.

The Cabinet Office has also published information showing how departments are meeting their own open data obligations.

"We are at the start of this process and it has never been done before. There is still some way to go to meet all our obligations, but now we have a benchmark against which progress can be measured," Maude claimed.

"This will act as a spur to further data releases, of higher quality and will help embed transparency in the private sector," he added.

Of the table of departments, all departments either have met all commitments or are on schedule to meet all commitments by the times specified. However the Department for Transport, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice are unlikely to meet some (less than 20 per cent) of commitments within a month of the deadline. While, the Home Office is the only department to have serious delays in meeting open data objectives.

Each department has also be scored on its "openness", with the highest scores awarded to HM Treasury (95 per cent) and the Department of Education (88 per cent), and the lowest scores going to the Department for Communities and Local Government (five per cent) and HM Revenue and Customs (18 per cent).

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