is a UK Government project to open up almost all non-personal data acquired for official purposes for free re-use. Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt are the two key figures behind the project.[1]

Homepage of


Beta version and launch

The beta version of has been online since the 30 September 2009 and by January 2010 more than 2,400 developers had registered to test the site, provide feedback and start experimenting with the data. When the project was officially launched in January 2010 it contained 2,500 data sets and developers had already built a site that showed the location of schools according to the rating assigned to them by education watchdog Ofsted.[2][3]

Data available

The Expenditure Map app, created by Ian Shortman using data from the Office for National Statistics. The interactive map visualises public expenditure data by UK region. contains more than 2,500 data sets from various UK Government departments. All data is non-personal and provided in a format that allows it to be reused. intends to increase the use of Linked Data standards, to allow people to provide data to in a way that allows for flexible and easy reuse.[3] As of April 2010 the following UK Government departments and agencies have provided data sets to BusinessLink, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for International Development, the Department for Transport, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department of Health, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, Her Majesty's Treasury, Lichfield District Council, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, the Northern Ireland Office, the Ordnance Survey, and the Society of Information Technology Management.[4]

Ordnance Survey data

When was officially launched in January 2010 Ordnance Survey data was one of the key data sets that Berners-Lee and Professor Shadbolt wanted to see opened up as part of the project. Ordnance Survey data was included in on 1 April 2010[1] and provides information on geographical locations. According to Professor Shadbolt "will make a real difference to the way that people make sense of the information".[2]

Combined Online Information System (COINS) data

On the 3 June 2010 the Treasury released the COINS data for the financial years 2008/09 and 2009/10.[5][6] The Combined Online Information System, known as COINS, operates as the UK Government's central accounting system. COINS data details the spent of all government department and their major spending programmes. The 4.3GB of COIN data included 3.2 million items for the financial year 2009/10 and was released using BitTorrent. The UK government has stated that data for the current financial year (2010/11) will be released in June 2011.[6] HM Treasury also cited "the impenetrability of the information to a lay user" and "the potential significant cost and difficulty of rebutting misunderstandings" as reasons for not releasing the data.[5] On the 15 of June the UK Government published the COINS data for the financial years 2008/09, 2007/08, 2006/07 and 2005/06 on Within 24 hours of the release the data was also made available through the RA.Pid Gateway webportal run by Rosslyn Analytics.[7]

The HM Treasury had refused previous requests to release COIN data on the grounds that it contained FOI-exempt data on future defence and security services spending.[6] HM Treasury also cited "the impenetrability of the information to a lay user" and "the potential significant cost and difficulty of rebutting misunderstandings" as reasons for not releasing the data.[5]

Data to be added is working with UK Government departments, agencies and local authorities to release more data.[3] Professor Shadbolt also wants local government data included in[2]

Data use and licensing

The app, a UK Cycle Journey Planner and Photomap created using data from OpenStreetMap and SRTM. offers a wide range of public sector data, ranging from traffic statistics to crime figures. The data can be used for private or commercial purposes. The aim is to kick-start the development of services that find novel ways to make use of the information.[2]

All data included in is covered either by Crown Copyright, the Crown Database Right or have been licensed to the Crown. In turn, all data available on is available under a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive license which permits use of the data under the following conditions: the copyright and the source of the data should be acknowledged by including an attribution statement specified by, which is 'name of data provider' data © Crown copyright and database right. the inclusion of the same acknowledgement is required in sub-licensing of the data, and further sub-licenses should require the same. The data should not be used in a way that suggests that the data provider endorses the use of the data. And the data or its source should not be misrepresented.[8]

The Crown copyright license permits anyone to copy, distribute and transmit the data, adapt the data, exploit the data commercially, whether by sublicensing it, combining it with other data or by including it in products and applications. The terms of the license are aligned with any Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Hence data can be mixed with information licensed under Creative Commons licenses to create derivative work, which can be distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. When users submit information to it is assumed that grant the Crown a non-exclusive, irrevocable right to use and pass on all public information submitted, such as descriptions of ideas and screenshots of apps, as well as the right to re-use allow the re-use of that information. All content on the site is placed under the same license terms as the data, though user ideas and application remain their own.[8]

The Crown copyright license does not affect fair dealing or fair use rights, or any other exceptions and limitations to copyright or database rights. The data is licensed "as is" and does not accept liabilities in relation to the data or provide warranties. Neither does guarantee the continued supply of the data.[8]

Government project

Authorized by the UK Cabinet Office and aims for the release of public data to become "business as usual" across public bodies, as set out in Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government, which established the UK Government's approach to public data and the release of that data. amongst others delivers on the commitment made in Putting the Frontline First to integrate data from the Publications Hub for National Statistics and to release more data relating to health.[3]

Project leaders

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt are the two key figures behind the project.[1] According to Berners-Lee "Government data is something we have already spent the money on... and when it is sitting there on a disk in somebody's office it is wasted." Professor Shadbolt told the BBC that "A lot of this is about changing assumptions" and that if the data "can be published under an FOI (Freedom of Information) request why not publish it online?".[2] In April 2010, commenting on the opening up of Ordnance Survey data Berners-Lee said that: "The changes signal a wider cultural change in Government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to - not the other way around." He went on to say "Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them."[1]

Current technology infrastructure

The site uses the CKAN platform for data publishing.

Similar projects in the UK

On the 29 January 2010 Boris Johnson, mayor of London, opened an online data warehouse containing more than 200 data sets from London city authorities.[2]

Similar projects in other countries

There is a growing trend amongst governments toward more data transparency. In the US the Obama administration launched, which opens up data from various departments, including the US Defence Department and NASA.[2]

The European Public Sector Information (PSI) Platform maintains a list of PSI data catalogues provided by governments and providing direct access to data. [9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Ordnance Survey offers free data access". BBC News. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Tim Berners-Lee unveils government data project". BBC News. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Government launches one-stop shop for data". HM Cabinet Office. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2009. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Browse By Public Body". Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c Wilcox, Jon (4 June 2010). "Govt drops first set of COINS". 
  6. ^ a b c Arthur, Charles (4 June 2010). "Coins: A flood of data is on its way... but we will need to make sense of it". 
  7. ^ Curtis, Sophie (14 June 2010). "Second Batch of COINS Data Ready For Release". eWeek Europe. 
  8. ^ a b c "Terms & Conditions". Retrieved 4 April 2009. 
  9. ^ "PSI data catalogues". EPSI Platform. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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