Modernise data publishing and reuse

 

Embedding best practice

It is common for UK legislation to contain within it a statutory duty to publish defined items of information. These references vary widely from instructions to publish in specific journals such as the London Gazette through to simple instructions that something must be produced.  Publishing technology has overtaken these instructions in legislation.  Just as the phrase ‘in writing’ has been overtaken.  There is an opportunity to modernise the way information is published which would both be more cost-effective and allow the information to be more easily used across multiple channels, thereby increasing the likelihood of it reaching relevant audiences.

The Taskforce has been pleased to see OPSI put the London Gazette online with sophisticated data feeds making information published there accessible to a far wider audience than ever before.  We understand that this work is a world leading demonstration of publishing for the semantic web by a government.  We have also looked at the way in which government publicises its job vacancies as an example of an area which could benefit from a smart application of new technology.  We believe that OPSI, working with COI is well placed to issue guidance on best practice for the evolving menu of choices that public bodies can use for publishing public information.

Where there is a statutory requirement to publish ‘notices’ or other information we consider that it would always have been Parliament’s intent to ensure that the information reached all the relevant people.  So, in addition, if necessary, to publishing in the form specified by statute, public bodies should publish the same information on the internet in a manner specified by The National Archives (OPSI) so that it is searchable, scrapable, and provides a structured feed.  Many bodies may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service.

Recommendation 9

OPSI, part of the National Archives, and COI should work on updated guidance on publishing information, including requirements for publication in legislation.  Guidance should help information producers publish in a form that is cost-effective, reaches the largest audience and can easily be re-used.

Recommendation 10

Public information should be available at marginal cost, which in practice means for free online.  Exceptions to this rule should pass stringent tests to ensure that the national benefit is actually served by charging for information and thus limiting its reuse.  OPSI (part of The National Archives) should define and consult publicly upon such tests which they then enforce.

Recommendation 11

Public bodies are often required to publish notices and other information in newspapers, by physical notices or by other means.  The same information should now also be published directly to the internet.  This will increase the opportunity for those people and businesses affected to see the information, either directly (for example, by search) or by others ‘mashing’ the information in the ways promoted elsewhere in this report.  In doing so, public bodies should follow the OPSI guidance and many may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service rather than develop their own systems.