Uk data free. Now let’s free the information

by Randy Tsang

Great news this week as it was announced that the government will now be publishing the world’s biggest set of public data at http://www.data.gov.uk. Data, such as location of post boxes, traffic accidents and flu outbreaks is now available to anyone who wants it. After the liberation of this data, what we will see now in the liberation of the information – through crowdsourcing.

Some government officials were hesitant at first to release this data, especially for free. What Sir Tim Berners Lee and Prof Nigel Shadbolt managed to do, was convince them of the benefit, citing an example of how releasing data on bike traffic accidents in a post on the direct.gov allowed a group of developers to post a google mash up of the data within 48 hours. The real value is going to come from allowing people of different expertise and backgrounds to use the data to create outcomes that would not have been conceived by the people who collected them. Tapping into the diversity of the crowd will uncover new observations, realtionships and produce useful tools for individuals and business. This will cause a real shift in the way we view ourselves and the places that we live in.

Tim Berners Lee also believes that it will herald a new relationship between the government and the people. Now that the data is out there, we will be able to hold public services accountable to a degree that was not possible before. It will be a new era of transparency. Lee also thinks it will be of great benefit to businesses. Even on a simple level like finding out where the nearest post box is, the information that we now have at our fingertips is going to prove extremely valuable.

“Having a business in Britain just becomes that much cheaper that much easier, that much more efficient”

Expect to see a lot more tools and interesting mashups be released in the near future.