From your perspective, what would success look like for the Public Data Corporation?
I would start with your objective of ” introduc(ing) a more consistent set of principles around data collection, maintenance, production and charging for users”. Before undertaking yet another round of consultation, go back and read the Market Study into “Commercial Use of Public Information” undertaken by the Office of Fair Trading under the leadership of Antoinette Graves a few years ago. Everything you need to know (almost) is there. Also read the reports produced over the past 7-8 years by the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information and for an amusing anecdotal account of the frustrations adventurers in the world of PSI can encounter, read pp 118-149 in Heather Brooke’s book, The Silent State (ISBN 9780099537625).
If you create a situation that meets the issues raised by the OFT and Ms Brookes, the PDC will have achieved a great deal. We live in an age of information. Managing information is a critical issue for every government agency, commercial enterprise or voluntary body. If the PDC makes information management more efficient, less costly, more reliable etc, then it will be welcomed. If it simply brings another player to the table, alongside the Trading Funds, the Office of Public Sector Information, the Information Commissioner, then it will have failed. Simply asking information users what they want (without some guidance as to what they can have) is unlikely to deliver the answers you are seeking.
If you had asked businessmen (they mostly were men then) in, say, 1975 what they required from a personal computer, they wouldn’t have said: “a multi-tasking operating system, a graphical user interface, a word processor, a spreadsheet and the world-wide web”. These things didn’t exist and only a tiny coterie of Californians was thinking about them. Success for the PDC will be an information-based economy in the UK that seamlessly spans the public and private sector. This starts with some principles and standards, and these are relatively well understood. I know the PDC sees itself as a world first, but many of the principles were laid down some 20 years ago in a Document (A130) issued by the United States Office of the Management of the Budget as a result of the Reduction of Paperwork Act.
Success for the Public Data Corporation would be data holders working in partnership with companies such as my own, to develop and expand the data that is available and how it is presented.
Having a searchable repository of metadata that would allow people to identify data sets of use to them, and for this to be a comprehensive data set so it is a one stop shop.
Also making access to the data and licencing easy, flexible and affordable, so it is used by people.
Plus an approach of enabling and encouraging access to the data, rather than being a gate keeper that wants to shut the door.
And the ultimate measure is surely the number of successful projects where the PDC has been instrumental in enabling access to the data.
Public and organisations having a clear understanding of what is available.
Easy access from private and public portals including downloads
All public sector datasets being available by default unless a legitimate case is made for withholding all or some of the dataset: that case being capable of being challenged by individuals and organisations and investigated by an independent body. That investigation process being open.
An organisation that helped the UK become the world leader in open public data, by mandating the OGL for all datasets, focusing on helping develop an ecosystem of new companies by getting govt entities to consume open data (including from the new companies now appearing) as well as publishing it, and not being diverted by short-term diversion such as the idea of ‘sweating assets’
Success for a Public Data Corporation assumes that a new organisation is the answer and the use of the word Corporation positions it as a quasi commercial entity.
I would suggest that success for the PDC would be that it did not exist at all and that data.gov.uk fulfilled its role as the search, discover and consume portal for ALL freely (and paid for) available public data.
Individuals, companies and developers need one place where they can find any data held by the public sector, most of which should be free to use and re-use and incorporate in commercial works. If necessary there could be a branch to access data which needs to be licensed directing users to information about the data and at a minimum an open and transparent pricing section.
Success would be a PDC that provided a search, discovery and download interface to public sector data that was hosted and updated by its “owners” with minimal (if any) additional cost or effort as part of the normal course of operations within the public sector.
Success would be a clear separation of the public task activities of public sector data producers from any commercial or added value activities.
Success would not be further commercial exploitation of public sector data sets, the privatisation of public sector data activities or abandoning government’s responsibilities to gather accurate data to support the fair and efficient delivery of public services.
Having a viable industry of applications, systems and products that provide different ways to access, present and otherwise disseminate the data.
Doing so will no doubt create significant economic benefits which will in aggregate surpass any benefit from keeping access to the same data limited.
A net-benefit to all aspects of the UK – not just financial (taking into account the full economy, not calculated simply off raw receipts in one account), but especially improvements in the private, civic and public aspects of individual people’s lives, or of business processes.
Whilst I am not convinced of the need for another separate organisation, if a Public Data Corporation is going to be set-up, then success would have to include consistent guidance and standards for what types of data might be chargeable to commercial organisations.
I agree with the other comments re: searchable repository of metadata, easy-access, downloadable, perhaps adding to data.gov.uk rather than having a new body
Success would involve growth in the size of the public data ‘commons’ in the UK. Individual datasets are most useful when there is an existing commons of openly licensed and linkable data to draw upon, and supportive infrastructures for data re-use (see http://www.practicalparticipation.co.uk/odi/2011/02/what-supports-the-sustainable-re-use-of-open-data/ for a draft paper on factors that support sustainable re-use of public data). Providing strong advocacy and support for the development of this commons (whilst avoiding trying to centralise or be the sole authority over it) is a key role for the PDC; and it should be measured against the size, breadth, depth and vitality of a public data commons in the UK.
Other metrics might include:
– Reduced cost of data access for government
– Increased access for citizens, non-profits and community groups to democratic data
– Economic benefits from openly accessible public data.
Every possible piece of public information available as open data, well documented and easily re-used by the general public (not just geeks like me!) without the need for heavy coding.
None of this “net-benefit” and “return to the economy” rubbish – access to open data is technological liberty.
A collaborative approach between data owners and data users keeping this simple wherever possible. I’m concerned that a layer of administration will be added, which has not needed to be present for data.gov.uk. Key success to us is the increased us of this data which allow us to produce applications which deliver tangible benefits resulting in additional insights allowing more efficient use of public money
Reduced internal and external adminstration overhead with the movement and utilisation of data.
Experience from the London DataStore suggests that you need advocates for open data with political backing to go door to door in government and politely suggest that departments and agencies should be releasing their raw data. When inevitably they don’t want to they should be asked again nicely. If you have to ask a third time then the PDC should be able to trigger some sort of review akin to investigations that OFT or Regulators carry out to produce findings of fact, and orders to release if appropriate. The release criteria should be that the data exists in digital form, that it can be released at small marginal cost and there is no public harm in a release. Arguments that the data will be misunderstood, or ‘stable state monopolies’ should not be disturbed, or that ‘revenues might be earned’ should all be discounted. If government has found a customer you can be sure that the private sector can find a lot more.
So success for the PDC should be the number of additional datasets it can release through a process like this. This is the most productive potential role for the PDC because it doesn’t duplicate what TNA, APPSI, data.gov.uk already do to regulate, policy make and catalogue respectively. The PDC should have a special remit to help SME’s exploit these datasets because SMEs can create jobs and their profits and spending stay in the UK. Smashing together the data publishing part of some agencies and departments might save a few quid but would not be the revolution the government surely want to see in economic activity around data. Data releases, fast internet access, mentoring, an innovative domestic market and access to finance is the way to develop a cadre of rapidly growing data businesses ahead of the international curve. These businesses can create new content ecosystems and encourage other governments into data releases that these new businesses will be best placed to exploit. This is the prize: the creation of a new data infrastructure for the post-industrial state that fast growing British companies are best-placed to exploit.