their heads in the sand and to say that reuse is not for them to worry about. There is no quick and easy solution to this other than to make sure that the OPSI encourages and publicizes the benefits of reuse of public sector information.
Getting this message across will require the use of many resources, notably from the OPSI, which is only a small part of the government. There are about 100,000 public sector organizations in the United Kingdom, so getting that message across will not be easy. Resources will be important.
A final challenge centers on awareness and impact—raising awareness through training and then measuring the impact, that is, what the economic benefits of PSI use are. The PSI Discussion Forum is a private-public initiative in this area. It has opened up the debate across the public and private sectors and recently received some favorable coverage in the press. The OPSI also developed a Web channel to deal with requests by people wanting to reuse public sector information.
Maintaining standards is, of course, highly important as well. The OPSI works closely with some of the audit bodies so that it has experts available who can go into public sector organizations and test what is actually happening in the reuse field. The OPSI works closely with the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the areas of competition and how markets operate. The OPSI plans to do some spot audits on public sector information. There is a major focus on government reviews, and some independent economic analysis has been commissioned that will look at how the various models across the United Kingdom operate. That analysis is expected to provide some guidance for the future.
Two key reports have been released over the past eighteen months. One was on the commercial use of public information and was produced by the OFT.2 The second was the Power of Information3 review. Although both of these reports deal with the reuse of public information, they come at it from somewhat different perspectives. The OFT report takes the point of view of a commercial reuser, looking at how to add value to this huge resource in order to benefit the economy. The Power of Information review, on the other hand, focuses mainly on the benefits of PSI to the citizen. It looks at how the Internet gives everyone the opportunity to use information in ways that were not possible just 10 years ago, using applications such as data mashing, or integrating, and it examines ways in which citizens can take information and share it with like-minded individuals. One example in the Power of Information described people who had visited restaurants in Los Angeles and who then shared information about the standards of the food, cleanliness, and other factors. One result of this activity was to elevate the standards across those restaurants.
In conclusion, the U.K. government is working to achieve three objectives. First, it seeks to embrace the information needs of the citizen. Second, it is attempting to encourage information reuse and commercial exploitation. And finally, it wishes to create easy-to-find and easy-to-use public sector information.