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Following in the footsteps of the US government, which launched data.gov last year, the UK government has teamed up with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the 'inventor of the internet', to launch data.gov.uk.
As the domain suggests, data.gov.uk is an online repository for data the government has in its virtual vaults and wants to make more accessible to citizens. From the economy to education, data.gov.uk currently offers just under 3,000 datasets - nearly triple what's available across the pond on data.gov.
That's one of the reasons data.gov.uk is getting some rave reviews. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb doesn't mince words; he says it "puts data.gov to shame".
A primary goal of data.gov is to get third party developers involved in using the government's data to create "wonderful things out of public data". Those wonderful things can even be commercial in nature.
As Tim Berners-Lee and collaborator Nigel Shadbolt stated in The Guardian today:
It's re-use of data in new - and often unexpected - ways that creates both social value and opportunities for economic growth. It's not our job to say where data might be useful; it's our job to unleash it and allow businesses and independent developers to build innovative services which they can then deliver to users. That's the story of technology through the years - and the way the World Wide Web itself has grown over the last twenty years.
Eventually, Berners-Lee and Shadbolt want to make data.gov.uk part of "business as usual" for government bodies. That would include regular updates of datasets and the use of Linked Data standards that will make it easier to combine different datasets in interesting ways.
That's an ambitious goal. but the beta of data.gov.uk looks to be a good start and with the inventor of the internet at the helm, data.gov.uk just might be the start of something really good.