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Key role for Nigel Shadbolt in local government data release

Speaking yesterday at No.10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced that he had asked Professor Nigel Shadbolt of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton to lead a panel of experts who will oversee the release of local public data, ensuring that it is linked effectively across relevant agencies, authorities and government departments.

The Prime Minister made the announcement in the course of a speech which launched the initiative Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government. The aim is to streamline government by strengthening the role of citizens and realigning relationships in local and central government.

This new initiative builds on work which the Government has commissioned over the past year, in particular the advice received from Professor Shadbolt and Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who have been advising the Cabinet since June on the release and linking of significant public data sets. Huge progress has been made in this work over a very short time frame. It was announced last month that the Ordnance Survey would enable access to a large amount of their maps from April 2010.

The expert panel to be headed by Professor Shadbolt will include local government chief executives, IT experts, and entrepreneurs. The Panel will work closely with key and relevant organizations to help improve local public services and empower citizens, with its first meeting planned for January. Over a period of two years it will aim to advance understanding of why the release of local public data is important and how it can be used for the benefit of the public. The Panel will also advise on the development of the data.gov.uk site (which goes live in January 2010) for all public data.

Nigel Shadbolt commented: 'Making more public sector information and data available is crucial if we are to exploit the innovative talent available to us in this country to produce really outstanding applications that have social and economic value.'

He added: 'The commitment shown by the Prime Minister has really encouraged us to be ambitious and I am pleased to help extend this work into local government.'

Commenting on these new Government initiatives, Ian Douglas of the Daily Telegraph wrote yesterday: '...this short list of points represents a move from public data being hidden unless it can be shown that it is in the public interest for it to be released to it being public unless it can be shown that it should be hidden.'

Computing magazine drew attention to the positive effects on business of releasing data: 'The Putting the Frontline First report says, "Data can also be used in innovative ways that bring economic benefits to citizens and businesses by releasing untapped enterprise and entrepreneurship. Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt predict a significant increase in economic growth if more publicly held data are released for reuse."

The Prime Minister's speech is available on the Number10.gov.uk website.

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee is also a Professor in the School of Electronics and Computer Science. Both he and Professor Shadbolt are Founder Directors of the Web Science initiative, which is one of the main research themes in the School.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44 (0)23 8059 5453.

Posted by Joyce Lewis on 08 Dec 2009.