The Government double charges us for data

I’ve just felt sufficiently exercised to write to my MP, about the UK government charging for information they’ve collected with our (the UK taxpayers) money. For example, I’m doing a location based events search for Arts & Kids. The data underpinning this has been collected by OS and the Royal Mail, using tax payers money, and yet the charity is having to pay for it in order to provide a free service to UK citizens.

A recent Guardian article, Give us back our crown jewels, sums it up perfectly. As they say, this information is incredibly wide in application… accident reporting, road speed, tidal ranges, postcode locations and more…

If you’ve also annoyed, you can easily write to your MP through the excellent Write to Them website. The text of my letter is copied below for your reading pleasure:

Dear Stephen Williams,

You may be aware that the UK government collects a vast array of
information useful to UK organisations. This data ranges from traffic
information, mapping, postcode locations, tidal ranges and more. The UK
taxpayer has funded the collection of this information, yet when a UK
business or charity wishes to access it they are charged significant
and sometimes large sums of money. This situation is stifling
innovation in the UK.
To give one example:

I am in the process of constructing a website for a UK charity dealing
with involving children in the arts. On the site we will provide a free
events listing service, allowing parents to select their area,
childrens age ranges and how far they are willing to travel and the
site will tell them of any events near them. This service will cost the
charity money to provide, despite the fact that the data underpinning
it has already been paid for once by the taxpayer.

It is my contention that all non-sensitive data collected by the UK
government should be provided freely to it’s citizens. This will allow
and promote a range of services both chargeable and freely available,
which will provide great benefit to the UK and assist the UK in gaining
a lead in the global information world.

This Guardian article covers the same topic:
http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,1726229,00.html

I am interested to know why the UK government feels it necessary to
restrict the growth of the UK information society in this way, and
whether any work has been done to estimate the potential for the
economy were it made freely available.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Wheatley

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