Press release

Public Data Corporation to free up public data and drive innovation

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude and Business Minister Edward Davey have outlined plans for a new Public Data Corporation.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude and Business Minister Edward Davey have outlined plans for a new Public Data Corporation.

The Corporation will, for the first time, bring together government bodies and data into one organisation and provide an unprecedented level of easily accessible public information and drive further efficiency in the delivery of public services.

Supporting the government’s growth agenda, it will open up opportunities for innovative developers, businesses and members of the public to generate social and economic growth through the use of data.

The Corporation will also have the potential to attract investment, reinforcing and accelerating the development of these world class assets and their contribution to the knowledge economy.

By bringing valuable government data together, governed by a consistent set of principles around data collection, maintenance, production and charging, the government can share best practice, drive efficiencies and create innovative public services for citizens and businesses. The Public Data Corporation will also provide real value for the taxpayer. 

Francis Maude said:

We have entered a new era of transparency in government and have already made an unprecedented level of data available. But we want to go further and faster, this agenda is more important than ever.

Public sector information underpins a growing part of the economy. The technology that is around today allows people to use and re-use this information in new and different ways. The role of government is to help maximise the benefits of these developments. At present many state agencies face a conflict between maximising revenues from the sale of data and making the data freely available to be exploited for social and economic gain. Creating the PDC will enable the conflicts at the least to be managed consistently with a view to opening up access, and at best to be eliminated.

A Public Data Corporation will bring benefits in 3 areas. Firstly and most importantly it will allow us to make data freely available, and where charging for data is appropriate to do so on a consistent basis.  It will be a centre where developers, businesses and members of the public can access data and use it to develop internet applications, inform their business decisions or identify ways to run public services more efficiently. Some of this work is already taking place but there is huge potential to do more.  Secondly, it will be a centre of excellence where expertise in collecting, managing, storing and distributing data can be brought together. This will enable substantial operational synergies. Thirdly, it can be a vehicle which will attract private investment.

Business Minister, Edward Davey, said:

Britain has always been a leader in the global knowledge economy, but our public sector does not always share its data, skills and capabilities to benefit government and businesses as well as it could.

A Public Data Corporation is a global first and will help make this information much easier to access and understand. It will provide stability and certainty for businesses and entrepreneurs, attracting the investment these operations need to maintain their capabilities and drive growth in the economy. It will also give better value for the taxpayer by driving down costs and making the process more efficient.

The Public Data Corporation could:

  • provide a more consistent approach towards access to and accessibility of public sector information
  • make more data free at the point of use, where this is appropriate and consistent with ensuring value for taxpayers’ money; this would create more opportunities for citizens, social enterprises and businesses to use public sector data in new and innovative ways
  • create a centre of excellence for collecting, holding and managing public data, driving further efficiencies and improving productivity across the public sector
  • identify how data government already holds can be used more effectively to provide better and cheaper public services
  • create more certainty and predictability - encouraging businesses to invest in and develop new and innovative products and applications based on data; it will also provide opportunities for private investment in the corporation

In some cases data is already being used in innovative ways and the Public Data Corporation will open up more opportunities.

For example, airTEXT is an air quality information service for people who live or work in London and who suffer from asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease or angina. airTEXT is designed to alert users to pollution so that they can take some of the simple steps that help reduce the likelihood of any impacts. When air pollution levels are predicted to reach moderate or higher levels over more than one tenth of someone’s zone, they send their users a free SMS message, a voicemail or an email, to warn them that pollution may be elevated. Their partners include ESA, Defra, GLA, and 20 London councils.

The government aims to establish the Public Data Corporation in 2011. Further work is being undertaken across government to determine what the Public Data Corporation might look like, including which bodies and datasets should be included within it.

Today’s announcement builds on the Growth review launched by the government on 29 November. In developing the Public Data Corporation the government will consider if data held by public bodies could be used in an innovative or entrepreneurial way and whether it could then, in future, be made available to the public.