Berners-Lee: Public must fill gaps in government data

Members of the public and the press may have to wade into government-released data to make it understandable, according to web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.Databases released to the public, such as the Treasury Coins mass of raw information,may have to be structured by volunteers and journalists, Berners-Lee told ZDNet UK on Monday.

Members of the public and the press may have to wade into government-released data to make it understandable, according to web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Databases released to the public, such as the Treasury Coins mass of raw information, may have to be structured by volunteers and journalists, Berners-Lee told ZDNet UK on Monday.

"When there's a gap I'd encourage members of the public and the press to fill in the gap," said Berners-Lee.

The Coins Treasury database was released in June 2010 as part of the data.gov.uk project, an initiative to open up government data, The data.gov.uk project was championed by Berners-Lee. The database details UK government expenditure by department, but has been criticised for presenting just raw data.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a standards organisation Berners-Lee directs, has a star rating for linked data (ie how contextualised the data is) — one star being the least accessible, and five stars being the most. Berners-Lee told ZDNet UK on Monday that different government departments will release data of greater or lesser degrees of accessibility and transparency.

"It's an interesting question: who should have responsibility [for transparency of datasets]?" said Berners-Lee. "With different government departments, the data will get one star, and you may just have to pat them on the back and say 'Well done'. Other departments and other places will put out five star data."

Berners-Lee was speaking at an event in Oxford on Monday hosted by UK internet registry Nominet. The event officially launched the W3C UK and Ireland office, which is now hosted by Nominet.

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