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G8 Open Data Charter: why it matters

The Telegraph - The international community today pledged to open up government data to more scrutiny than ever before as they signed an Open Data Charter for the first time. Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt explains why every citizen will benefit.

Data makes our world work – imagine a world without the open standards that power the Web, or the GPS signal that powers our sat navs and phones, or the open data that describes the human genome.

The G8 Open Data Charter was unveiled at Loch Erne today, and recognises “a new era in which people can use open data to generate insights, ideas, and services to create a better world for all.”

In recent years we have seen a gathering momentum behind open government data – a global movement to open up public, non-personal data that the public sector collects, generates and holds in our name.

We have seen how hard it can be for governments to embrace this culture. At a time when we face a crisis of confidence in public and private governance, open data can help to build long-term trust, but this will also require commitments to quality and usability.

Even in the UK, where we claim some leadership in this field, we have found it impossible as yet to release critical open data assets, such as the county’s legal addresses, or the boundary data relating to land titles, or basic environmental data such as national flood data.