Government announces £7.5m of funding to help departments release data

The Cabinet Office has announced a new wave of funding for its open data initiative, where most of the £8.35 million will be used to help departments overcome technical barriers to releasing data into the public domain.

A £7.5 million Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund, which will be overseen by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, will be issued to government departments, local authorities and agencies to help with IT development, standardising data and making data linkable, in a bid to open up more public sector data.

It is estimated that this funding could support up to 10 projects across government, where a maximum of £50,000 is available to each public sector body should their bid be successful.

"The value and scope for open data is extremely significant. Open data can improve public services, generate new revenue streams for companies and help to stimulate economic growth. That’s why we are backing it through these new investments," said Matthew Hancock, Business Minister and sponsor of the Data Strategy Board.

"We want to help enable everyone to benefit from open data – whether it’s taxpayers, businesses, the public sector or individuals."

The UK government is investing heavily in transparency, where minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, recently launched a white paper that detailed the government’s drive to release data into the public domain for analysis and re-use.

Across the UK government, more than 9,000 datasets have been made available via and the Cabinet Office recently opened a £10 million Open Data Institute, headed up by inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee, to help businesses maximise the commercial value of open data.

In addition to the Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund, the Cabinet Office has also announced a £850,000 Open Data immersion Programme, to which companies can apply. This programme will provide support to companies looking to reuse data to develop ideas for new products and services.

It is focused on SMEs and start-ups, who will be able to engage with a series of events and competitions run by the Open Data Institute, aimed at getting data owners to better understand the business opportunities different data sets provide.

Competition winners will be eligible to take their concepts into early product development with a £20,000 to £25,000 investment, with more details expected in the New Year.

The new funding announcement coincides with the publication of the first quarterly Written Ministerial Statement showing how departments are complying with their obligations for releasing public data, as set out in two letters from the Prime Minister, the Open Data White Paper and their own Public Data Strategies.

At present over a third of government departments, including their arms-length bodies, have met or are on track to meet all their open data commitments.

The average openness score for all departments is 52 percent, based on the percentage of the datasets published by each department and its arms-length bodies that achieve three stars and above against the Five Star Rating for Open Data set out in the Open Data White Paper.

"This new funding will help us to exploit the power of open data to fuel social and economic growth. It will free up more data for commercial exploitation and help drive innovation in public services," said Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.

"But transparency is also about making government better by sharpening accountability. That is why today we are also publishing information showing how departments are meeting their own demanding open data obligations."

He added: "We are at the start of this process and it has never been done before. There is still some way to go to meet all our obligations, but now we have a benchmark against which progress can be measured. This will act as a spur to further data releases, of higher quality and will help embed transparency in the private sector."

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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