NEWS2 March 2017

UK government to open up ‘more data than ever before’

Brexit Data analytics News Technology UK

UK – The government has promised to make more data openly available than ever before, to boost innovation and support research.

Karen bradley crop

A policy paper on the UK's digital strategy, launched today by culture secretary Karen Bradley (pictured), sets out measures to "unlock the power of data in the UK economy and improve public confidence in its use".

"The true potential of data can only be harnessed if it is open for use by others," the paper says. "The UK leads the world in open data, and the government is committed to building on this and being open by default… But government still holds data that could be opened up for researchers, campaigners, established companies and entrepreneurs to use. It is our ambition to ensure data is shared wherever appropriate. This will help businesses and government to innovate, generate maximum economic value and help create new digital products and services that enhance citizens’ lives.

"To support industry in unlocking value from data, we will work with organisations such as the Open Data Institute to create an environment to open up customers’ data across more sectors through the use of APIs. This will help the development of innovative new applications, such as dashboards that bring together household bills, or tools that could automatically switch consumers to the cheapest energy deal based on their preferences and actual usage. "

The government also plans to appoint a government chief data officer, and create registers of core government reference data to encourage its use.

Bradley said: "This digital strategy sets a path to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research as part of the government’s plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation."

The paper cites the highly successful British-made smartphone app Citymapper as an example of tech developers benefitting from public data – in this case, transport data provided by national government and the Greater London Authority. Citymapper is believed to be installed on half the iPhones in London.

To develop digital skills, the government plans to work with the industry-led Data Skills Taskforce to implement some of the recommendations made in 2015 by innovation charity Nesta and Universities UK. Companies including Google, Lloyds Bank and Barclays will help to provide free training.

The government also confirmed that, despite the UK’s plan to exit the European Union, it would still implement the EU’s new data protection regulation, "to ensure a shared and higher standard of protection for consumers and their data across Europe and beyond". And Bradley promised tougher penalties for companies that deliberately seek to identify individuals from anonymised data.

"We will take the actions needed to make the UK a world-leading data-driven economy, where data fuels economic and social opportunities for everyone, and where people can trust that their data is being used appropriately," the paper says.