G8 nations sign Open Data Charter to increase transparency

G8 leaders have signed a new Open Data Charter designed to improve transparency of government information.

The Charter was agreed at the latest G8 Summit in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It established five strategic principles that all G8 members, which include the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada, will have to act on.

The first principle is that all government data will now be published openly by default. The group said that free access to and use of open data have a significant value to society and the economy. It was recognised, however, that there is existing legislation regarding intellectual property and sensitive information, which would not be shared.

The second principle is to increase the quality and quantity of data that is released from governments, with attention to fully describing things in plain and clear language. Among the areas where data will be released are education, transport, health, and crime and justice.

The third principle is that open data should be available to use by all, with no charges applicable and no limits to the re-use of such data by citizens. This also includes a commitment to release data in multiple formats, to allow wider dissemination.

The fourth principle is the recognition that releasing data improves governance, not only within the G8 countries, but across the world. Information about data collection, standards, and publishing processes will be documented to improve this aspect.

The fifth principle is the recognition that releasing data helps innovation, both in commercial and non-commercial sectors. The group pledged to work on increasing open data literacy and encourage people to get involved in open data promotion.

The move will be a welcome one for advocates of free speech and those wanting government to be more transparent about the collection and use of data.