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Tim Berners-Lee Unveils UK Government Data Project 25

Sri.Theo writes "For a long time, the UK hasn't had the default access to government information that the US has, but a campaign by Tim Berners-Lee finally yielded results with access to masses of local information. The hope is that this will make access to government services easier and more useful for everyone. Crucially, it's not just for developers; everyone can submit and comment on ideas for use of the data."
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Tim Berners-Lee Unveils UK Government Data Project

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  • We in the US have access to government information by default?

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:47PM (#30848308)

    ...the UK hasn't had the default access to government information that the US has...

    Oh please! Just because our government makes more information available doesn't mean any of it is useful in determining what our government is doing. Anything interesting is blacked out and requires a dozen FOIA requests to get, or is locked away in perpetuity behind the justification of "National security". Getting timely, factual, and relevant information out of our government is like trying to get product out of those damnable plastic clamshells -- You could wind up seriously injuring yourself trying to get to it.

    • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @01:52PM (#30848378) Homepage

      Works of the US government are in the public domain.

      I also suspect that you do not realize how much data government agencies in the US (both Federal and state) routinely publish. Most of it is stuff you would consider boring, but others find it very useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Works of the US government are in the public domain.

        Quite a few aren't.

        USPS materials, artwork, design and all postage stamps as of January 1, 1978 or after are subject to copyright laws. Works produced by the Department of Commerce are exempt under the Standard Reference Data Act. It also doesn't apply to state or municipal governments, or "organized territories" under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government (Such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, etc.) Only Florida and Minnesota routinely place their materials in the public domain. Many logos and e

        • Works authored by the Postal Service are claimed not be works of the US Government (sounds fishy to me, but as far as I know this has not been contested in court). Works of government contractors are not works of the US government because contractors are not employees (much work assumed to be by NASA and/or DoD is actually the work of contractors). State and local governments are, of course, not part of the US Government. I know of no exemption for works of NASA or the military: such things may be classi

          • BTW nothing in the Copyright Act requires that the US Government publish or release anything: it just bars it from asserting its copyright (with exceptions as noted). That is why NASA holds back data: it's the only way they can give researchers publication priority (though in the USA copyright doesn't apply to pure data anyway).

            And trademark is, of course, entirely seperate from and unrelated to copyright.

            FOIA, with all its exceptions and loopholes, is about requiring release of material and is really orth

      • by MrMr ( 219533 )
        Are you sure about that copyright? I was under the impression that they distributed their works for free on USB sticks.
        • > I was under the impression that they distributed their works for free on USB
          > sticks.

          Only classified ones.

      • Yes indeed. From geologic data, to construction codes and reports, it really is nice to visit a number of US public agencies. Most governments are not that open about the data that their taxpayers money has paid for, but to which the same taxpayers cannot easily get access. I wish my own government had more policies like those in place. However, things do seem to be improving. At least where the geospatial data is concerned, I'm starting to see some movement.

  • Our Governing system is such a joke, we can afford to have Joke parties [wikipedia.org]
    Just read some of those campaign promises.

    In all seriousness though, they've done a decent job so far. It's never gotten so bad that we demand more information out of them, and as far as I recall any information I wanted to find out was easily searchable.

    What, you've never heard of CSIS? Does that make it better or worse at its job than the CIA?

    • Our Governing system is such a joke, we can afford to have Joke parties too. [wikipedia.org]

      In all seriousness though, we're talking about local information and local government here is a completely different beast.

      • I Dial 311. I know all my local services. Don't know who started that but its a great service. If I'm lucky, I'll even get a live operator to talk to about it.

  • by Kugrian ( 886993 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:23PM (#30848784) Homepage

    I've been using the beta for a while with those free laptops they leave on trains.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:49PM (#30849126) Homepage Journal

    In the U.S., we get access to government data by default when it's convenient.

    When it is not, we get stiffed. Witness the ACTA [cnet.com] fiasco. And we will get stiffed on this one if we don't keep up the pressure, and get Congress out of the habit of passing legislation they can't even bother to read. [senate.gov]

    England still has an Official Secrets Act [wikipedia.org] far as I know. How's that working out for ya?

    If it's any consolation, we don't bother with that in the U.S., really. We just fight it out in the courts.

  • It's mostly a collection of links to local government websites. There are a few things I'd rather see done differently:

    - data held centrally by data.gov.uk so it can be directly accessed...
    - ...and held in common, open formats rather than the current MS only formats
    - queryable data, not just massive spreadsheets

    It seems to have potential. It's not much use right now though.
    • Errr... I freely admit I haven't exhaustively looked through the data currently available, but the whole point of data.gov.uk is to publish data in semantic web formats. If the current stuff isn't quite there yet - it will be, and in totally standardised, mash-up-able, formats. I wasn't aware there was any MS format stuff on there at all.

      Disclaimer: I know the people involved in this project, and they constantly talk about using XML, RDF, GRDDL, OWL, and so on...

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault