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2 Policy context

2.1 Public sector information

The UK public sector creates, collects and holds substantial amounts of information, ranging from mapping and weather data to health and crime statistics.  This public sector information supports both the delivery of public services and a growing section of the economy.

Much public sector information is available online at no charge, through government websites and portals such as www.data.gov.uk.  Government is committed to opening up access to further sources of information, promoting transparency and accountability and creating new economic opportunities.  It is therefore Government policy to support civil society and the private sector in realising the value stored in public sector information by enabling it to be re-used and re-purposed.

2.2 Re-use of public sector information

Re-use of information occurs where information is used outside the original purpose for which it was created.  This includes activities as straightforward as the re-publication of statistics in a research paper or as complex as the development of mapping for a satellite navigation system.  

Re-use often involves the combination of information from different sources to create new products and services.  For instance, in addition to road mapping, Government also publishes information on cycling accidents, enabling the planning of safer routes around dangerous areas. 

These characteristics of re-use help to deliver two key government priorities: public sector transparency and increased economic growth.

2.3 Open Government and transparency

The Government is committed to opening up access to information created and held by the public sector and enabling its free re-use, including commercial re-use, in as simple a process as possible. This forms part of the Government's transparency and public data agenda, which is currently being taken forward by the Public Sector Transparency Board, established by the Prime Minister in 2010, by the Cabinet Office and by The National Archives.

2.4 Innovation and economic growth

Public sector information is a valuable resource that can be used by the private sector to develop value added products and services. The removal of barriers to re-use will act as a stimulus to the knowledge and digital economy, especially in the information and publishing industries, so providing significant economic opportunities and enhance job creation. The growth of new value added information products and services will also enable users, both professional and non-professional, to obtain information in formats and ways not necessarily offered by the public sector. This is likely to improve the flow of information from the public sector to the citizen and lead to better informed decisions, efficiency and compliance with the law and regulations.