Originally published on data.gov.uk 

“National Information Infrastructure will deliver better public services, new products, new jobs and a stronger economy”

January 2015

The Government set out the first iteration of the UK National Information Infrastructure (NII) in October 2013. It consists of a long list of datasets published on data.gov.uk which, although useful, are not structured.  There has yet to be an analysis to identify the important datasets which are missing from the NII, there are no priorities or timescales set for subsequent dataset releases, the datasets which are released are not always well maintained and the overall governance of the NII is undefined.

Since October 2013 there has been a lot of activity around Open Data, in particular many Local Authorities are opening up more of their datasets. Last year’s Local Government Incentive Scheme, funded by the Release of Data Fund successfully demonstrated that national views of local datasets are useful and can be delivered quite easily when some light-touch oversight is applied to make sure that the individual datasets will stitch together. However, without a defined framework, the NII has yet to consider how Local Government Data will fit into the bigger picture.

The Open Data User Group (ODUG) thinks that more needs to be done more quickly to deliver a strong ambitious National Information Infrastructure (NII) which safeguards the publication of the nation’s key datasets and which will benefit everyone as it will:

Drive the evidence-based analysis and the effective re-design of public services
Create new economic opportunities as businesses, academics and entrepreneurs can use this guaranteed data to build new products, create new jobs and provide new products for citizens
Enable any citizen to use the data to monitor the activities of government and hold the government to account

ODUG is today publishing a paper The National Information Infrastructure (NII) ‘Why, What and How’ which sets out the group’s independent overview of the next important steps for the NII, based on the work the group has carried out over the last two years to evidence the real-world demand for Open Data and its understanding of how Open Data is currently being published.

The NII paper has been written to explain to a wide audience the importance of a nationally recognised set of open data to describe the society we live in and is intended to stimulate the debate beyond the Open Data community into the wider community.

The paper sets out Why the NII is so important, What the NII structure (data architecture) should look like and provides guidance on How Public Sector Data Holders should approach the task of identifying their key datasets for inclusion in the NII. It calls on this and the next Government to make sure the public data holders who are opening up their data are provided with straightforward guidance and support so that the critical data infrastructure that underpins society will be established as a national asset and properly maintained for all to use.

The paper also highlights the importance of ‘Core Reference Data’ including National Address Data and Geospatial Data from the Ordnance Survey which ODUG and many other data community members have been calling for the Government to open up. This data is essential to allow other datasets to be combined for analysis without a reliance on personal data.

A good NII will allow the public sector to innovate more to design public services which are better joined-up across functions and more efficient. There is an urgent need to combine management information (data) from across different public service areas in central and local government together with that from businesses delivering services on behalf of the Government, including voluntary organisations, to analyse how things work now and how they can be made to work better in the future. This is key to help us save public money and help reduce the national deficit. The NII is fundamental to the digital transformation agenda, also to building Smart Cities.

We need our Government to commit to delivering a robust National Information Infrastructure (NII) and the more people who understand the importance of this the better!

Please read the paper, share it with your friends, and send us your comments – ODUG email: nii@odug.co.ukODUG Twitter: @odugUK.

Heather Savory

Chair ODUG