After being hired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last June, World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee last week launched a free web site that offers access to a wide range of data from the British government. The web site, Data.gov.uk, has been heralded for offering the public unprecedented access to government information ranging from house prices to traffic statistics and access to local hospitals. The British web site has been compared to the United States' own web portal to provide government data sets to the public, Data.gov (read more about the US version here). Data.gov.uk currently offers 2,500 sets of data from across government and there are plans to expand the data available. The site is already being used by internet developers to create applications that aim to convert the data into a more easily useable format for the public (read about the similar trend in the United States here).
Sir Tim said the ultimate goal is to make British government data more accessible to the public:
"Making public data available for re-use is about increasing accountability and transparency and letting people create new, innovative ways of using it."
Professor Nigel Shadbolt of Southampton University, who helped develop the web site with Sir Tim, addressed privacy concerns related to releasing the data and made the point that the data was already available under Freedom of Information laws. Shadbolt said:
"A lot of this is about changing assumptions. If [the data] can be published under an FOI (Freedom of Information) request why not publish it online?"
To learn more about the new web site, see this BBC article.
See our previous blog entry to learn more about Sir Tim's appointment to develop the site after an expenses scandal in the British Parliament.