Sir Berners-Lee Emphasises Importance of Open Data

The inventor of the World Wide Web has this week claimed that the openness of government data should be considered as important as the freedom of speech.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee maintains that open data should be considered a basic right of citizens. "Obviously there are more fundamental ones, but if a democracy is going to work you have to have an informed electorate," he argues.

Sir Berners-Lee also maintains that the openness of governments directly correlates to whether or not others choose to invest. "When you make the government open, when they can see what's happening, they're much more likely to bring their money and companies into your country."

Many groups around the world are already using the openness of data to hold governments to account. For example, in Brazil a website that tracks the published wealth of politicians has already created many political casualties.

In India too, the 2005 Right to Information Act has been met with great enthusiasm.

Yamini Aiyar, director of the accountability initiative at the country's Centre for Policy Research, says that Indian Citizens see the act as crucially important.

However, Nathaniel Heller of non-profit group Global Integrity has warned; "There's a danger in assuming that all we need are these ever increasing volumes of information." He went on to add, "Personally, I think it needs to be matched with other reforms."

Tom Loosemore, head of 4iP, which funds many of the new websites that make use of the UK government data believes there is still a long way to go in fully harnessing the power of public data in the UK. "There's an awful lot to play out, but the dam has been breached," he said.

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