Headlines: May 17th, 2005

A new office has been set up to co-ordinate policy standards on the re-use of public sector information, including providing consistent and transparent processes for potential re-users to gain access to the information. The Office of Public Sector Information will be attached to the Cabinet Office and will be under the ministerial control of the Parliamentary Secretary there.The establishment of OPSI comes just two months after the close of a public consultation on the introduction of regulations to implement a European Directive on the re-use of public sector information. The new body has been formed from the resources of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and will have an extended remit to advise on and regulate the operation of the re-use of public sector information. HMSO will continue with its core activities, including responsibility for the publication of legislation and the management of Crown copyright.

OPSI is being seen as a key part of Britain’s implementation of the EU Directive on the reuse of public sector information. That directive comes into force from July and will encourage the development of innovative products and services by the information and publishing industries, based on public sector information. The new body will be at the heart of those developments and will set standards and provide a practical framework for better transparency as well as taking steps to remove obstacles to re-use.

It will oversee the implementation of the new regulations the main obligations of which will be transparency of the terms of re-use, including details of charging for use of information, where this is appropriate, and the need to respond to applications for information within 20 working days. The new rules also call for the production of asset lists.

OPSI will provide a range of advisory services to the public, the information industry and the public sector, but will also play a leading role in the resolution of disputes, acting as a mediator and ensuring transparency by making full disclosures about any disputes to the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information.