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Preview: Comments for Free Our Data: the blog

Comments for Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to non-personal data about the UK and its citizens

Last Build Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2012 13:24:14 +0000


Comment on Freeing the oceans’ data: new Estonian startup aims to do just that by Bod

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 13:24:14 +0000

Without wanting to defend the USA's bizarre attitudes regarding health care and "socialism", there is a key difference: information goods (e.g. a NASA Hubble photo of a nearby galaxy) can be reproduced infinitely at zero cost even if it cost a fortune to create the first one; hospitals and doctors on the other hand cannot*. Scarcity in the former is therefore artificially created, theoretically to incent the person creating it to do so in the first place, an incentive that doesn't really apply to government data. Since the campaign is "Free our Data" and not "Free our everything" I think we all get that, but we should be careful with our language because I'm not sure it's so self-evident to everyone why the two things differ. A key aim is surely to stop people treating data in the same way they treat tangible goods (hoarding them and charging for them) and I'm not sure the "free at point of use" argument and bringing in healthcare really helps get that across. * Many medicines with large R&D and low production costs are closer to the information side of things though.

Comment on Paying twice for data? Through your council, you might be paying EIGHT times by When information is power, these are the questions we should be asking | Online Journalism Blog

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 07:19:32 +0000

[...] HEFCE consultation brings to mind the situation that existed for years around Ordnance Survey data: taxpayers were paying for the information up to 8 times over, and the prohibitive cost of accessing that data ended up inspiring the Free Our Data campaign. As [...]

Comment on Environment Agency… sells our data? by Anon

Thu, 16 Jun 2011 11:27:18 +0000

Whilst I applaude the success of the Free Our Data campaign so far, I think your aim at EA is somewhat misguided. Similarly to the British Geological Survey, their data practices are actually quite sensible. They both provide a lot of data for free - much of it online - and they only charge for premium data that is costly to produce and of commercial value, which in many cases includes IP from commercial third parties and therefore attracts royalties. If they did not charge for these datasets they would have to absorb the royalties themselves (at taxpayers' expense) and also be accused of unfair competition. It's a tricky one for you to tackle. If you are looking at further use cases where freeing up data would add a lot of value, I'd recommend you take aim at Royal Mail and the Coal Authority. RM is maybe an obvious one for postcodes and addressing data, but the Coal Authority has so far managed to slip below the radar eniterely. The CA's data practices are deliberately obfuscating and commercially aggressive. They won't release their taxpayer-funded coal-mining and ground-stability data over concerns that it might unduly alarm the public (a fair point perhaps, you'd be amazed at how many urban areas are at risk of ground instability from past and present coal mining), but at the same time they have no qualms over exploiting their monopoly dataset to allow site-specific access (via reports) at exorbitant rates (2 years ago they more than doubled the retail prices of these reports to make up for a drop in revenues from the property crash). Plus they have no scruples getting into bed with commercial partners to corner the environmental data market, creating another taxpayer funded monopoly that undermines the economy. You'd have your work cut out on that one! Whatever you do, keep up the good work & wish you good luck.

Comment on Environment Agency… sells our data? by Richard White

Thu, 16 Jun 2011 08:34:39 +0000

Hi, There are a variety of legal, licensing and technical reasons. The data on EA GeoStore is not just EA data, that of course the public can have access to as I mentioned earlier. There is also a lot of third party data that has to be paid for and licensed for use by EA staff and their partner organisations. That data is not available to the public. I agree that an order and download service, similar to the OS's service would be useful. I'm sure the EA are considering that for data the public should be able to easily access. Regards, Richard.

Comment on Environment Agency… sells our data? by Ed Parsons

Thu, 16 Jun 2011 07:08:47 +0000

Richard, Do you know why the EA data is not just made available for download in this way, it would seem more efficent that people having to visit local EA offices ? ed

Comment on Environment Agency… sells our data? by Richard White

Thu, 16 Jun 2011 06:02:49 +0000

Hi, The EA GeoStore is a non charging data sharing facility for Environment Agency staff and their partners. It is not for public use or for the sale of EA data to the public. Members of the public can still get free EA data by contacting their local EA office. Please get your facts correct before publishing incorrect informatio. Regards, Richard White.

Comment on Ordnance Survey says Met Police crime maps break its licence. Does Jacqui Smith know? Or Gordon Brown? by Reforming Ordnance Survey – The Dextrous Web

Wed, 25 May 2011 15:40:23 +0000

[...] For anyone who thinks this is merely a theoretical problem, it may be of interest that all those lovely crime maps launched by police forces across the UK are probably in violation of the OS’s licensing terms. [...]

Comment on Is the campaign won? What do you think? by senior homes

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 04:55:32 +0000

Also OS is GB only, we need to know where OSNI stands in all of this. The free Codepoint file is GB only.

Comment on Is the campaign won? What do you think? by Richard

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 11:17:35 +0000

It looks as if the proposal for the National Gazatteer with free access to the public sector but high cost to the commercial sector means that the fight will need to gear up again

Comment on Is the campaign won? What do you think? by Paul

Fri, 05 Nov 2010 17:56:18 +0000

I can see that alot of data useful to some has been released, but it's certainly not case won - some areas are getting worse as it seems likely that the excellent Multimap Open API is going to be withdrawn in the near future. It's not just that 1:25k isn't available - 1:50k isn't available either apart from with a tiny tile limit on Openspace.

Comment on Seeing red by chris coombs

Wed, 03 Nov 2010 00:52:19 +0000

not only the colour red but cruciform as well has anyone told the catholics? maybe royal mail will apologise for the offences of the spanish inquisition who knows?

Comment on Vive les données publiques ouvertes! by Martin

Mon, 18 Oct 2010 12:12:06 +0000

All quiet on the FOD blog these days. With the change of government, has FOD become internet archive FODder?

Comment on The open data flood begins here: Cameron writes to central and local government by Theunis Viljoen

Sat, 25 Sep 2010 09:28:40 +0000

BIOLAP now has details of more than 50 Councils' payments to suppliers over £500 on its free Council Expenses Dashboard at - Users can slice and dice, compare and sort the data as well as drill through to underlying transaction details.

Comment on Power of Information authors rebuff Ordnance Survey over “free maps” article by David Cameron, Tom Steinberg and Information Scraping | Podnosh

Wed, 14 Jul 2010 17:15:46 +0000

[...] consistent format.   That in turn makes automated collection of this  information a nightmare.  Freeing up data is a key part of Tom’s Power of Information review  and he  also talks about it [...]

Comment on Is the campaign won? What do you think? by commercial property maintenance leeds

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 20:47:43 +0000

I've emailed OSNI to get clarification on a few points, they seem very lax in replying (two weeks now, 4 emails sent). I havent yet had a read reciept, so either they are binning my emails or just not checking them at all. Excellent service OSNI.