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mySociety

Author(s)

Tom Steinberg, mySociety

Tom will talk about the value of public sector information to society - with specific reference to mySociety, a non-profit, open source organisation that runs many of the best-known democracy websites in the UK. These include the Parliamentary transparency website TheyWorkForYou and the somewhat self-explanatory FixMyStreet. mySociety’s missions are to build websites which give people simple, tangible benefits in the democratic and community aspects of their lives, and which teach the public and voluntary sector how they can use technology better to help citizens.

Policy Recommendations

* Free your data, especially maps and other geographic information, plus the non-personal data that drives the police, health and social services, for starters. Introduce a ‘presumption of innovation’ – if someone has asked for something costly to free up, give them what they want: it’s probably a sign that they understand the value of your data when you don’t.
* Give external parties the right to interface electronically with any government or mainly public system unless it can be shown to create substantial, irrevocable harm. Champion the right fiercely and punish unjustified refusals with fines. Your starting list of projects should include patient-owned health records, council fault reporting services and train ticket sales databases. All are currently unacceptably closed to innovation from the outside, and obscurity allows dubious practices of all kinds to thrive.

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