I attended a meeting recently at which a civil servant introduced a report which he was summarising as ‘exciting’. I had to stifle a yawn, thinking that what might be exciting for a civil servant would probably be very dull and boring. But I was wrong – the report on “The Power Of Information” is of much interest to those of us (and I include many readers of this blog) with an interest in promoting open access to information.

The report (which is available as a PDF document – 280 KB, 57 pages) was commissioned by the government and published in June 2007, as described on the Cabinet Office Web site.

The background to the report is an awareness of the popularity of Web 2.0, especially those which provide user generated content and how such technologies, coupled by a more open agenda, can enable information provided by government bodies to be reused in various interesting ways (Paul Walk recently commented on the phrase “The coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else“).

The government’s response to the review (which is available as a PDF document – 610 KB, 20 pages) was very encouraging, broadly agreeing with all of the recommendations.

Although this report is aimed at information produced by central government bodies (i.e. information covered by Crown Copyright) my view is that the publication of the report and its acceptance should be welcomed by those in the educational and cultural heritage sectors. The report can help to move the debate within these sectors on the reuse of data and encourage experimentation and sharing, rather than the conservatism we have seen in the past, with worries about loss of IPR and potential (though perhaps seldom realised) income-generation possibilities.

A report worth reading, I feel.