Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Ooh, We're Getting All Digital Now

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So, we Brits are getting all excited because the Prime Minister gave a big speech about how Britain is going to be all fab,  broadbandy, and “totally, like Web 2.0, man”  soon. And all this data is going to be given away- look here’s some of it now. We’re all going to have instant access to Government services, free Ordnance Survey data, and a shiny Institute of Web Science to stick all the bits together.

Now, of course it’s a total coincidence that this is a nice positive announcement, and there’s to be an election shortly, for which we don’t yet know the date. Let’s not go there, since this is not a political blog. Let’s also not contrast this with the Digital Economy Bill, fast-tracking it’s way through parliament on somewhat dodgy grounds as we speak, that threatens to take a lot of this nice shiny stuff away if you’re so much as caught within a mile of an mp3 that you didn’t buy from ITunes. Let’s not talk about carrots and sticks, or nice cops and nasty cops or other such comparisons.

Instead, let’s concentrate on the data.  They will, on April 1st, release “a substantial package of information held by ordnance survey freely available to the public, without restrictions on re-use”. The consultation only finished 5 days ago! How can they possibly have had time to analyse the consultation responses yet? Personally, while I look forward to the release of the data, and it is a massive win for the Free Our Data campaign, I would prefer that they gave the consultation responses some respect by analysing them in detail, or at least pretended to read them properly.  I told someone off for assuming that the decision had already been made, and that the consultation was a waste of time, but perhaps they were right.

The rest of it, I quite like, though I’m yet to see a Government IT project really work properly. We’ve got (amongst other things):

  • “core reference datasets that contain the precise names and co-ordinates of all 350 thousand bus stops, railway stations and airports in Britain”

  • “an inventory of all non-personal datasets held by departments and arms-length bodies – a “domesday book” for the 21st century”

  • “information on each set of data including its size, source, format, content, timeliness, cost and quality”

All sounds good. I could get excited by this, but I just want to wait and see what happens, shall we, and not take our eye off the other balls?