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08 May 2009, 14:30

Next steps in UK open government

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Yesterday (7th May) the UK government Minister for Digital Engagement Tom Watson outlined the next steps in the Government's Power of Information programme.

The Ministry set up a Power of Information Task Force at the beginning of April to “drive forward the Government's pledge to meet rising aspirations of modern communications practice and improve engagement with citizens through social media.” The task force's “key goal is to increase innovation and improve the way the Government shares information so ordinary people can develop online services that benefit their community”.

In the past Crown copyright rules have hampered public access and re-use of published government information. Reproduction rights were quite tightly controlled and in some cases fees charged for reproduction rights. In a speech given at the NESTA / UNESCO Public Service Media 2009 Conference the Minister said that the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has reviewed the Crown copyright rules with the intention of making it easier to re-use government information. In the past even re-using free Crown copyright material required a previous application for a licence. Now licence is to be automatically granted to anyone wishing to use the information.

The Minister also said that the Office of Public Sector Information continues to make headway in the task of consolidating and reducing the number government web sites and in making the information on the remaining sites more accessible.

There has been a lively debate over the idea that the opportunities presented by the internet would lead to an overall economic benefit to the UK if, where they applied, licensing fees were minimised or abolished.

These government initiatives have perhaps been encouraged by the activities of Rewired State and its National Hack the Government Day where private individuals had the opportunity to show the public their websites designed to re-organise publicly available government data and present it in a far more accessible form.


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