The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced a plan to make 200 data sets owned by the Greater London Authority and relating to the administration of the capital freely available online.
The so-called ‘datastore’ is modelled on a similar initiative by the US government, named data.gov. Johnson said that it would not only stimulate greater transparency in city government, but also present commercial opportunities for software developers to build services around the data.
The plan is to be unveiled this afternoon during an event that (quite inexplicably) will be linked via satellite to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The datastore itself will be live on January 29th 2010.
In a statement prepared for the press, Johnson said that “the US has led the way on this idea of setting their data free for anyone – students, campaigners, software developers – to use. Now it’s time for Britain to get up to speed and I want London, as the greatest city in the UK, to be at the forefront of this revolution”.
Although it is true that the Obama administration has more than any other national government exploited the power of Internet and database technologies to make information publicly available. But the UK has already made a significant contribution to the field dubbed ‘government 2.0’, most notably the work of mySociety.org.
A number of recent announcements from the current Conservative party leadership, whose connections to Silicon Valley technology companies once earned them the soubriquet ‘the California Tories’, have addressed the use of Internet technologies in government.
Earlier this week, for example, a draft ‘healthcare manifesto’ from the party revealed plans to unleash an ‘information revolution’ – a phrase also used in the material to promote the London datastore – in the NHS by "making detailed data about the performance of trusts, hospitals, GPs, doctors and other staff available to the public online" and by putting "patients in charge of their own health records, with the ability to choose which providers they share them with".