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Pioneer of the World Wide Web to advise the government on using data

CAB043/09
10 June 2009 

The Prime Minister has announced the appointment of the man credited with inventing the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee as expert adviser on public information delivery. The announcement was part of a statement on constitutional reform made in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is currently director of the World Wide Web Consortium which overseas the web’s continued development. He will head a panel of experts who will advise the Minister for the Cabinet Office on how government can best use the internet to make non-personal public data as widely available as possible.

He will oversee the work to create a single online point of access for government held public data and develop proposals to extend access to data from the wider public sector, including selecting and implementing common standards. He will also help drive the use of the internet to improve government consultation processes.

The Prime Minister said:

“So that Government information is accessible and useful for the widest possible group of people, I have asked Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who led the creation of the world wide web, to help us drive the opening up of access to Government data in the web over the coming months.”

Tessa Jowell MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office said:

“I'm delighted to welcome Sir Tim Berners-Lee as expert adviser on public information delivery, I know he will bring great enthusiasm and extensive knowledge to the role. The internet is a key information source for many people and it's vital that we make the most of it.

“From the performance of a local school to the most recent statistics on crime we need to make sure that people have the facts they need to make informed choices and hold public services to account. Sir Tim’s advice will also be invaluable when it comes to how the internet can be used to make sure government engages with as many citizens as possible.”

Andrew Stott, Director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, said:

“I'm delighted to be working with Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his panel on this key part of the Power of Information agenda; they will provide the expert challenge and insight we need to drive action across the public sector.”

Notes to editors

  1. A note setting out the context and terms of reference for Sir Tim Berners-Lee's work is attached.
  2. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990. His specifications of URIs, HTTP and HTML were refined as Web technology spread.  He is currently the 3COM Founders Professor of Engineering in the School of Engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he also heads the Decentralized Information Group (DIG). He is also a Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southampton, UK.  He is also the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), co-Director of the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) and a Director of the World Wide Web Foundation, started in 2008 to fund and coordinate efforts to further the potential of the Web to benefit humanity.  In 2001 he became a fellow of the Royal Society.  He was knighted in 2004 and awarded the Order of Merit in 2007.
  3. Nigel Shadbolt is Professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deputy Head (Research) of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. He is a Founding Director of the Web Science Research Initiative, a joint endeavour between the University of Southampton and MIT.  He is a Fellow of both the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society.  Between 2000-7, he was the Director of the £7.5m EPSRC Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Advanced Knowledge Technologies (AKT).   AKT was particularly influential in establishing the viability and value of web-based semantic technologies.  He has recently been awarded a further funding by the EPSRC to build on this work.  Professor Shadbolt has published over 300 articles on various facets of his research, and has written and co-edited nine books.
  4. The Power of Information Taskforce, chaired by Richard Allan, was established last year.  Its report set out 25 challenging recommendations for the government on how to improve its use of the internet to empower citizens.

    Their blog is: http://powerofinformation.wordpress.com
    The report can be found: http://poit.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
    The Government's response is on http://blogs.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/digitalengagement

    Recommendation 14 was to establish a central point of access for government information.
  5. Note on public information delivery

    In the last two years the Government's work on the Power of Information has shown how the information revolution has the potential to transform government and public services.

    The Government has accepted all of the recommendations of the Power of Information Taskforce to open up access to Government information for free reuse.

    In particular, and linked to its wider programme of Public Service Reform, the Government is committed to implementing and to extending to the wider public sector the principle that public sector information should be available under straightforward licences and in standard formats for others to re-use: the principle that public sector information should be public.

    In the next six months, Sir Tim Berners-Lee will serve in an advisory capacity to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and he will work with Professor Nigel Shadbolt to form a panel of technical and delivery experts to oversee the rapid implementation of key recommendations, including:
    (1) Overseeing the creation of a single online point of access for all public UK datasets – and work with departments to make this part of their routine operations - with a live Beta site running by the end of the year.

    (2) Bringing forward specific proposals to implement and extend to the wider public sector the public sector information principle, including:
    * helping to select and implement common standards for the release of public data
    * helping to select, develop and implement common terms for that data where necessary
    * developing Crown Copyright and 'Crown Commons' licenses and extending these to the wider public sector
    * supporting the exploitation and publication of distributed and decentralised information assets
    * looking at the potential for reform of the information regulatory framework, working with the ICO and other experts to ensure that the regulatory regime supports the proactive publication of government information

    (3) Driving the use of the internet to improve government consultation processes as proposed by the Taskforce and learning from the innovations already used by DIUS, the Cabinet Office and others.

    Other key areas in which Sir Tim Berners-Lee will advise the Government include :-

    (4) Working with the Government to engage with the leading experts internationally working on public data and standards, and to promote international liaison and global standards setting – an investment in future international data sharing.

    (5) Helping to drive culture change in Whitehall toward an assumption of total publication for anonymous data using open standards.

    The panel will work closely with the recently-appointed Director for Digital Engagement and other officials in the Cabinet Office, the Office for Public Sector Information (part of The National Archives), and the Technology Strategy Board.
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