Friday Mar 21, 2008

Public Data should be free

A government study has concluded that it would best to stop charging for public data, reported in the Guardian yesterday. In the 80's the UK Government established 'trading funds' for a number of its statistical and data management bodies including the ordnance survey (Maps), DVLA (Road Vehicles and Users), Companies House, the Land Registry, Met Office and Hydrographic Office, and required them to charge for access to data that had either been payed for by the taxpayer, or it was mandatory to provide to government.

This research, conducted by a team from Cambridge University, discovered that freeing the information creates greater value in the economy than would be lost through charge income.

The campaigners for free information argue, firstly that consumers have payed already for the information through their tax payments, and secondly that the government is often in a monopoly position as the only body capable of collecting some of the data through its power of compulsion. The state monopoly makes it very hard to determine a market price, particularly as the marginal cost to supply is zero. The report also denies the argument that participation in a market encourages innovation in the supply chain, because of both the lack of regulation, and the monopoly position of the government. It should be noted that some of the government's "income" is paid with taxation, since the government agencies cross charge each other.

The release of this public information would in all probability lead to innovation in the use cases as more people seek to add value to it, with different approaches and use cases, and its this innovation that will crete real economic value. This is a very real case showing that welfare optisation occurs when information and knowledge is charged at marginal cost, which for digital information is zero or virtually zero.

We'll have to see what the Treasury does.

You might also want to see the Guardian's Campaign Page, Free our Data and the Open Knowledge Foundation's web site.

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Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

EU 10, Microsoft 0

An exciting day in many ways yesterday! The European Court have confimred the European Commissions fine on Microsoft for ant-competitive activities. The Guardian have reported it with the head line "European appeal court opens Windows to the world and shakes the superdominant". A headline only imagined in the Guardian business section.

Most interestingly they indirectly quote the competition commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes,  as saying that this ruling strengthens the commissions determinatio to put consumer benefit above innovation. This would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that only "Author/Publishers" need copyright/patent protection to inhibit competition. There are many other business models that drive innovation in the economy.

 This article at vnunet.com, called "Copyright harms the economy" is further evidence that bit by bit, people recognise that ideas cannot be exclusivly owned and that exclusive ownership is not in the public interest.

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Tuesday Jan 23, 2007

modelling personal conversations

The workshop was opened by Bertolt Meyer of Humbolt University, Berlin, who has recently published research into the fact that Knowledge Repositories don't work. Once he said it, it becomes obvious, have you ever found one that did.

He and his collaborators insight goes beyond the view that the central data model consists of documents, activities, topics and most importantly people. It is necessary to transform the knowledge management system into a knowledge network consisting of people and their connections and reasons for connection. They have built an application proving these insights at ioe-skillmap.hu-berlin.de.

The network visualisation functionality is delivered using prefuse, and the key data model insight is that the relationship between nodes possesses multiple attribute, particularly those of parent/child, similie/loose and vector.

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