Today we began the online consultation for a new set of guidance to accompany the new, to be commenced, provisions in the Freedom of Information Act that enhance the right to data. We are planning commencement for the new provisions to be in April 2013, giving public authorities time to prepare for their new duties. To help them do this we are required to provide them with new guidance to help them carry out their new duties and this guidance, in the form of the Code of Practice (datasets) will sit alongside the existing Section 45 Code of Practice for the Freedom of Information Act.
You may be wondering how we got to this point. It all started in May 2010 when the Government set out its ambition to enhance the right to data “so that Government-held datasets can be requested and used by the public and then published on a regular basis”.
Last year, the Government put forward changes to the Freedom of Information Act through the Protection of Freedoms Act which received Royal Assent in May 2012. The exact amendments can be found at legislation.gov.uk whereby section 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act amended section 11 (Means by which a communication to be made), section 19 (Publication schemes) and section 45 (Issue of code of practice), and inserted a new section 11A (release of datasets for re-use) and 11B (power to charge fees in relation to release of datasets for re-use) of the Freedom of Information Act.
The public have always been able to request datasets under the Freedom of Information Act however, provisions relating to their disclosure and re-use conditions have developed in a piecemeal way. The aim of the new provisions in the Act is to consolidate the complex landscape around the release of datasets for use and re-use and for this new code to make public authorities aware of their new responsibilities, to reduce potential confusion and bring clarity to what is expected of public authorities undertaking their new duties.
This new draft Code of Practice (datasets) aims to make it clear as to what is meant by the terms set out in the new provisions in the FOI Act. For example, what is meant by “an electronic form which is capable of re-use” or a “re-usable format” for the purposes of the Act. Over the last few months, the Cabinet Office has prepared this draft alongside the Ministry of Justice, the National Archives and the Information Commissioners Office. As committed to in the Open Data White Paper, we are now holding an online consultation to hear your views and comments on where the code can be improved or expanded upon so it provides the best guidance possible to public authorities who will in future rely on it as they carry out their new duties.
The online consultation tool on data.gov.uk provides responders with an opportunity to have a conversation with everyone as to whether a particular paragraph, sentence or word in the draft code could be improved upon. We are looking for you to help us develop the best possible guidance for the new datasets provisions and we hope that you find this crowd-sourced based open approach a good way to provide your input into the consultation. By exploiting the tools we have to hand, we hope it will give you more of an opportunity to see in real time, what other peoples’ views on the draft code are as opposed to submitting your views to an email address and then waiting for the summary of responses to be published after the consultation is over.
The new draft code also outlines the licensing framework in which public authorities must use when making their datasets available for re-use. Together with the Open Government Licence, which the draft code encourages public authorities to use, and the Non-Commercial Government Licence, a new licence has been drafted for potential use by public authorities that have reason to charge for the re-use of the dataset they hold or produce. This new licence, it’s working title the ‘Charged Licence’ will form a suite of ‘specified licences’ provided for in the new datasets provisions of the FOI Act. The National Archives today published the licence in beta form and alongside the consultation for the new Code of Practice (datasets) and they are interested in receiving comments on the licence as to whether the simplified terms and conditions adequately meet the requirements of licensors and re-users alike, as well as feedback on the working title of the new licence. Although referenced in the draft Code of Practice, any comments on the beta licence should be sent to the Information Policy Team at the National Archives at email@example.com by 10 January 2013.
I hope as many of you are able to engage with the consultation as possible. We are open to receiving comments using the traditional email-based approach, so if you wish to do this then please submit your responses by 10th January 2013.
This consultation is now closed but you can still read the Code of Practice paper.