Web creator backs UK open data institute

London Tube train Early releases of data have produced programs that monitor tube train travel

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The creator of the World Wide Web is backing a UK institute that will advise on how to make the most of government data.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee will co-direct the Open Data Institute (ODI) that aims to open its doors in September.

The ODI will study the best ways to exploit the growing amounts of data being made public by the government.

It will train people to use the data in business and advise on what kinds of information should be released.

Like many other governments, the UK has established a public data store through which businesses and individuals can get at some of the information official sources gather about the UK.

"As the government releases more and more of that data, the obvious question to ask is whether we are driving all the value out of that we can," said Prof Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southampton, who will co-direct the institute with Sir Tim.

The ODI will seek to answer that question and act as a training and educational resource that will help people find the data that could be useful to them and provide advice about the best way to use it.

'Appathons'

Early releases of weather and transport data had helped kick off novel applications and businesses, said Prof Shadbolt.

The institute would run "appathons" and "hackathons" to swiftly endow people with the skills to start using large data sets, he said.

It would also, said Prof Shadbolt, advise businesses about the best way to get the most out of the data they held internally.

In its work as an open data hub, it would also provide feedback to the government about the data it was providing, whether it was useful and the novel types of information businesses sought.

The ODI was first announced in the Autumn Statement of Chancellor George Osborne and now its business plan has been given the go-ahead by the government. A total of £10m of public funds have been pledged over five years to get the ODI going, but the cash is contingent on a similar sum being pledged by businesses.

The ODI will be physically situated in Shoreditch, close to the Silicon Roundabout hi-tech hub established by the government.

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