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FOI Act will require government to make data open and ‘re-useable’

Approximately 9,000 datasets have been made available on data.gov.uk

The Cabinet Office has revealed that changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) will require public sector departments and bodies to not only publish datasets, but make sure that they are available in a re-usable format.

Changes to the act form part of the government's drive to increase transparency and release as much data as possible for wider user. At present there are approximately 9,000 datasets available on the government's data.gov.uk website.

The government hopes that by not only increasing the availability of data but by making it re-usable it will encourage innovators to create applications and businesses, which could drive growth.

"At present, the data issued by public authorities is raw and often unformed. Under the new Protection of Freedoms Act, datasets should be released in a form that can be used and re-used, so it will no longer be necessary to make a separate approach to public authorities to re-use a dataset," said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

"This is a new dimension in government transparency - laying data open so that it can be more readily exploited by entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit organisations and others in socially useful and commercially productive ways."

The new FoI requirements will come into effect at the beginning of 2013, giving public sector bodies time to ensure their data is formatted correctly for re-use.

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