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Strengthening the National Information Infrastructure (NII)

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Join the debate on Twitter at #UKNII

In October 2013 the Government published the first iteration of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) intended to ‘contain the data held by the Government which is likely to have the broadest and most significant economic impact if made available and accessible outside of government’.

ODUG’s view, shared by many in the data community, is that the Government should clearly articulate what constitutes underlying Core Reference Data within the NII, together with a structured publication schedule for these datasets, under the Open Government License (OGL), to maximise the medium term impact of new open data. ODUG has therefore set out to undertake an analysis of the NII.

The initial phase of this work is captured here, covering ODUG’s thoughts on how the NII should be re-defined. Can I draw your attention, in particular to Slide 6 which indicates some of the ‘Big Things’ the NII could lead to including; Leaps in Public Health and Better Investment Decisions.

The opportunities the NII can deliver are substantial and profound. It is also important to consider that many of the achievable benefits are in the public interest, but the work to deliver these is too vast to be handled by the Public Sector alone. Business and civil society needs to work with and alongside public bodies to deliver the amazing results we can anticipate in improved transparency and citizen choice, efficiencies in the delivery of public services and opportunities for business innovation and economic growth.

It is clear to most of us working in this area that a solid, open platform of complete, coherent Core Reference Data is necessary to underpin the release of value from open public sector information. Open geospatial data and addressing is of huge significance, as set out in Slide 7. This location data is fundamentally important as it allows multiple datasets to be connected together for analysis, particularly since open data is not about the release of personal information.

An example of the importance of progressing the NII and the utilisation of core reference datasets, in this case to deliver a fully-evidenced debate to unlock the national housing crisis, is written up in this paper on Housing Land Availability. The paper explores how the availability of several core NII datasets as open data could unlock valuable third-party analysis in this area to inform decisions which are important at both a local and a national level.

Specifically we think that the NII should set out:

  • Structure: What we should know about the UK, to support transparency, social & economic growth and efficient and effective public services.
  • Datasets: Datasets (open and closed), metadata, and the underpinning ‘connector’ data and identifiers used to link together different datasets.
  • Priorities for data development: Based on the gaps in the available data against the structure and the priorities for publishing & improving open data, and providing secure access to closed data.
  • Data publication: Recommendations for data publication, for example minimum standards for metadata, use of common identifiers, vocabularies, public registers of core reference components etc.
  • Future improvements: Suggested future improvements, for example exploring whether non-government data sources should be included.

We would be glad to hear your comments on this work and, especially, more examples of the ‘Big Questions’ the NII can help us evidence, debate and solve for the UK.

Remember – this data exists and belongs to all of us. It just needs to be made available to us!

Please add your comments below, tweet on #UKNII and/or contact any of us at ODUG with your feedback.


Heather Savory

Chair Open Data User Group

July 2014



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  1. Comment by Owen Boswarva posted on

    Here's the original NII list released by Cabinet Office in October (as the link is currently missing from the post above):

    National Information Infrastructure

    This is a blog post I wrote, with some analysis and annotations on the NII datasets:

    Evaluating the UK National Information Infrastructure

    -- Owen Boswarva, 29/07/2014