Gordon Brown announces digital 'domesday book'

Brown embraces the digital age
Brown embraces the digital age

Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered his Building Britain's Digital Future speech in London today, outlining how the UK is preparing itself for a digital future.

One of his biggest proposals focused on the freeing up of government-held data to the public, something which he hopes will "break down the walled garden of government" and "provide greater transparency on the workings of Whitehall."

One way he hopes to do this is by offering more information for free on the data.gov.uk, including transport information, ordnance survey details and creating what he calls "a domesday book for the 21st century."

"Public transport timetables and real-time running information is currently owned by the operating companies," says Brown.

"But we will work to free it up - and from today we will make it a condition of future franchises that this data will be made freely available."

He continued: "I can confirm that from 1 April, we will be making a substantial package of information held by ordnance survey freely available to the public, without restrictions on re-use.

"And I can also tell you today that in the autumn the Government will publish online an inventory of all non-personal datasets held by departments and arms-length bodies - a "domesday book" for the 21st century."

Freedom of information

The digital domesday book will be managed by the National Archives and is said to be the first time that the general public will be able to access information on departmental data which includes: size, source, format, content, timeliness, cost and quality.

The unleashing of all this data sounds like a call to arms for website creators and mobile phone app manufacturers as it will all be able to be used for free.

This is good news for those who used to get free up-to-date train information from My Rail Lite on the iPhone, only for the app to be culled in favour of the paid-for National Rail Enquiries version.

By making this data available for free to anyone, app manufacturers will effectively be able to use this information however they choose.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.