Jinfo BlogThe UK Public Data Project One Year On

Wednesday, 26th January 2011 Sign in to MyJinfo or create an account be able to star items Click for printable version Subscribe via RSS to get updates as soon as Blog items are added Tweet about this item on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

By Penny Crossland

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It has been a year since the launch of the UK government’s public data portal, data.gov.uk, which as Michele Bate reported in her post in January 2010, was much publicised as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for public data. The big idea was that all this government data would eventually create a £6bn industry in applications and software.

Although launched by the old regime, the new coalition government wholeheartedly embraced the project, since it fits with the notion of the ‘Big Society’.

How is the site faring? Well, according to comments posted on the portal, its users are not happy. There is plenty of criticism regarding the datasets, called ‘pathetic’ by one user, others find the data hard to find and conclude that ‘unless access is given to the raw data, this quest for knowledge is doomed’.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, the enthusiasm behind the project has worn off and there is concern that those supposed to be releasing information are actually blocking it. As those closely involved with the portal have pointed out, attitudes of public servants and government Ministers need to change drastically for the project to succeed; i.e. they need to release raw data automatically, without being asked.

Meanwhile, the London Data Store, launched around the same time as data.gov.uk - see Anne Jordan’s Livewire posting on the topic - has been praised for making real-time tube data and transport information public. This data has already resulted in a network of applications.

While on the subject of public data, I recently came across the Guardian’s Data Store site. Launched late last year under the banner ‘facts are sacred’, the paper commented on the growth of data journalism, which the Data Store’s editor, Simon Rogers said was becoming an 'increasingly big part of the work' at the Guardian. He went on to say that searching for information on Google often resulted in 'a million contradictory' facts. Welcome to the world of the information professional!

The Guardian’s site provides access to datasets from governments across the world, facts from data blogs, key data of the day and featured applications. Data is sorted by topics such as agriculture, crime, defence, economy, health and population. So far, Government statistics are published from the following countries: UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand.  New features are to be added in due course. In all, a site well worth bookmarking.

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