The government has announced plans for a standalone organisation to support and co-ordinate open data initiatives across the public sector.
As well as making the government’s open data programme more efficient, it said, the Public Data Corporation (PDC) will help address a dilemma that some public sector bodies face. Charging private organisations for access to data is an important source of revenue for many government divisions, but they are under increasing pressure to make data available for free.
“At present many state agencies face a conflict between maximising revenues from the sale of data and making the data freely available to be exploited for social and economic gain,” said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in a statement. “Creating the PDC will enable the conflicts at the least to be managed consistently with a view to opening up access, and at best to be eliminated.”
The announcement underlined the government’s intention to use open government data to create commercial opportunities for private businesses. According to business minister Edward Davey, the PDC “provide stability and certainty for businesses and entrepreneurs, attracting the investment these operations need to maintain their capabilities and drive growth in the economy.”
A survey of 1,000 UK businesses conducted by data integration provider Informatica last year found that only a minority believe that open access to government data would be of any benefit. Fewer than half believed that data could provide commercial insight (46%) and practical business benefits (43%).
The same survey found that three quarters of UK business would not be prepared to provide open access to their own data, citing intellectual property, privacy and data management concerns.