We shall have a PDC

Today Francis Maude announced that the government will be forming the much trailored Public Data Corporation or PDC.

Free and Open data could be on its way thank to PDC. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveboudreau/

At this point there is not much publicly available info apart from this statement of intent.

“By bringing valuable Government data together, governed by a consistent set of principles around data collection, maintenance, production and charging, the Government can share best practice, drive efficiencies and create innovative public services for citizens and businesses. The Public Data Corporation will also provide real value for the taxpayer”

There is loads of other good stuff in the announcement about innovation and openness.

“.. it will open up opportunities for innovative developers, businesses and members of the public to generate social and economic growth through the use of data”

Not sure how opening up data etc gels with the idea of attracting external investment but no doubt all will become clear as plans develop. Apparently government has not yet decided which data empires within public ownership will be transferred into the PDC, a review is underway. I imagine their will be quite a lot of debate and negotiation behind the scenes and we on the outside will have loads of fun speculating about who is in and out and on what terms. It will be like months of January transfer window speculation (a football analogy for anyone who is puzzled).

I am increasingly of the view that the best way to exploit government data would be to put it into a big bucket marked “free” and leave it to the innovators (economic and social) to work out what to do with it. But I suppose if you are the Shareholder Executive or the Chancellor and you have placed values on these businesses in the national balance sheet you might be less than happy to just turn them into a revenueless cost centre. So it is probably unlikely that all of that data will become free within PDC.

If we have to be measured in our asks of the PDC, my personal ask would be to free up PAF. I am sure the “centre of excellence” could come up with some more efficient ways of maintaining the dataset and it probably ranks near the top of geo folks remaining requests now that we have OS OpenData. This is a bit Oliverlike “Please Sir, can I have some more?”

I wonder whether Francis Maude was thinking about Royal Mail and PAF when he said

“At present many state agencies face a conflict between maximising revenues from the sale of data and making the data freely available to be exploited for social and economic gain. Creating the PDC will enable the conflicts at the least to be managed consistently with a view to opening up access, and at best to be eliminated.”

Interesting times ahead

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