[okfn-discuss] Power of Information Taskforce Report

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Sat Feb 21 00:26:54 UTC 2009

For those of you who may not have seen it:


The OKF and CKAN get a mention in the 'Finding public information for
reuse' section. See p. 18 of the PDF version or:


Excerpt below.



Finding public information for reuse
Large scale publishing of public information

Public information distributed across thousands of websites is
expensive or time consuming to gather for reuse.  The cost can be so
high that little or no reuse occurs.  The Show Us a Better Way
competition revealed this to be a problem when people seek information
about complex public service choices.  One of the winning entries,
School Guru demonstrates the scale of the challenge when choosing a
school. Taskforce members with experience of building large mash ups
identified a high search and acquisition cost as a major barrier to
innovation in the reuse of data.

Where information is presented in one place it makes it much easier to
reuse. The District of Columbia in the USA provides a vivid example of
aggregating data for reuse in its data catalogue. The DC CTO has
pulled together all of the District's major data sets onto one web
page and provided the data for free as a choice of feeds and
downloads.  This makes it very easy for people to use information in a
way that suits them.  Using modern techniques and storage it is
relatively easy and inexpensive for government to aggregate
performance and other data as it is produced.  And then make it freely
available for re-use in virtual or physical data repositories.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton referred the
Taskforce to use of data repositories in the academic sector to
aggregate resources for research.  The Open Kowledge Foundation held a
useful workshop with the Taskforce on finding and re-using
information.  The workshop discussed the use of data catalogues which
point people to where information can be found, such as the Common
Knowledge Archive Network. The workshop demonstrated that finding
public sector information is not straightforward and requires a
detailed knowledge of how government works.

The challenge of ensuring information is discoverable and remains
available over time will be met by a combination of catalogues and
physical data repositories. Examples of each already exist across the
public sector in the information management strategies of individual
organisations. There are initiatives that aim to bring some
consistency such as the Information Asset Register overseen by OPSI,
part of the National Archives. Further information on information
asset registers can be found in a paper produced for the ePSIplus
network. However, in spite of these efforts, significant challenges
remain for potential re-users, who may not have detailed knowledge of
the structures of government, in finding and understanding relevant
and useful information sources.

The Taskforce recommends that the government build on this existing
work by establishing a public sector information repository and
catalogue function based around the Office of Public Sector
Information, part of the National Archives.  OPSI has the expertise in
modern information publishing and, as an offshoot of National
Archives, can take a long term view of custodianship. We understand
that officials in OPSI have already sketched out the architecture to
deliver such a service at minimal expense.

The Taskforce is pleased that the pre budget report contains a
commitment from Communities and Local Government (CLG) to move forward
in publishing its performance data obtained for the Comprehensive
Performance Assessment (CPA).   If this performance data were to be
published in a well structured way, it should be possible to produce a
map of public services to help inform people's choices.


The Government should ensure that public information data sets are
easy to find and use.  The government should create a place or places
online where public information can be stored and maintained (a
'repository') or its location and characteristics listed (an online
catalogue).  Prototypes should be running in 2009.

Jonathan Gray

Community Coordinator
The Open Knowledge Foundation

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