The third workshop looked at what type of classification or categorisation should be behind the NII. This classification would apply to both the list and the framework, as well as changing while playing a part in modifying the current thematic layer on data.gov.uk to match it.
There was wide support for using a simple classification such as COFOG (the United Nations Functions of Government classification) but it also became evident that COFOG did not cover all the aspects we would need, such as local authority data. There are, however, some good classifications for local authority data that can be brought into the equation and that needs to be explored. No apparent ‘golden classification’ came up as an option and we moved on with a sense that what may be required is a derived classification which includes several sources, although some felt this could be messy.
Licenses also came up as a popular subject. The feeling was that there should be a unified licensing structure (probably OGL) and that it must be very clear that documentation on any other license needs to be provided, ideally with non-legalese language stating clearly what is allowed under it (a simple “you can” and “you cannot” statement for those exceptions that are not open).
It is important to note that it was stressed throughout that the NII’s role should be to integrate the disparate landscape of reference data and its affiliates across government (including local authorities) In doing so we must establish an understanding of the needs of different constituencies (e.g. government, business and private citizens).
It was further noted that we must be clear whether we are talking about a National Information Infrastructure and a National Information Infrastructure One suggests looking at providing an infrastructure which is then populated by information, while the other suggests the focus is on identifying information which is critical at a national level. Perhaps we need to talk about both.
The importance of governance was again stressed in this workshop. A good summary statement from the previous session had been that the“NII must have authoritative governance to make it happen, it cannot be an aspiration or just another data project”. There was a strong feeling that without authority from the top it would be impossible to make departments and other publishers adhere to the principles and conditions while competing with other priorities and dealing with cuts in resources.
All workshops were very emphatic that for the NII to work it needs the right leadership, perhaps at the level of a CDO with direct ministerial support as well as very senior involvement, with a formalised data role, across departments. This fed into the broader point made which insisted on the essential nature of publishers becoming custodians, responsible for the maintenance of uploaded data.
We now enter the writing phase, We will be working with colleagues and departments for the next few months, trying to bring together the best possible proposition for a National Information Infrastructure. We will continue to update everyone on progress as we move along.
Our intent is to concentrate on creating the framework proposition and the underlying principles (structure, criteria, conditions and its details) and work afterwards to re-assess the current NII list in data.gov.uk against it. We will be aiming for a document that is concise but also one that continues the tradition of simplicity and clarity of such works as the GDS design manual.