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Bizwiki, the UK Business Wiki site founded on the principle of allowing users to edit, update and add data to business records, has joined the call to free access to parts of the data held by government departments.

‘There is a wealth of data that is controlled by government funded and approved agencies that is currently restricted or charged for,’ said Matt Aird, co-founder of Bizwiki.co.uk. “We’ve seen just how much demand there is for relevant information online, to the degree that thousands of people have signed up over the last 12 months to help Bizwiki compile and improve records about local businesses across the country.’

‘What we are now asking is that the government move to make more taxpayer’s data available to them. In short, we believe that access to publicly acquired data should be free.’

Agencies ranging from the Ordnance Survey to the Highways Agency are either government-owned or receive large portions of their income from the public sector or taxpayer, but charge for data with exacting copyright restrictions that prevent or hamper re-use of the data.

‘From a business directory perspective, free access to public datasets would have a huge impact on usability and accuracy,’ added Keith Hinde, Chief Technical Architect for Bizwiki. ‘Taking our own site as an example, by cross referencing businesses with Companies House data, we could provide a cleaner, deeper and more reliable dataset to end users, reducing the need for manual moderation or checking.

‘Using PAF data, we could enhance usability and consistency with guided address editing or detailed validation’, he continued. ‘With access to the Ordnance Survey’s AddressPoint data, we could provide much more accurate plotting of businesses on maps, making it easier for customers to locate businesses and hopefully reducing the time spent driving around trying to locate a particular business.’

For examples of the types of data that could be made available for free with minimal impact on revenue of the government or the other agencies, a recent Cambridge report identified records held by the Land Registry, Companies House, and Met Office.

Following in the footsteps of the Guardian Technology’s drive for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens and organisations such as INSPIRE’s campaign ‘State-collected Geographic Data is public property’, Bizwiki is joining the argument in favour of liberating public access to non-confidential company and mapping data.

‘The government is rightly proud of the increasing strength of the UK as a knowledge based economy and of our home-grown internet and technology enterprises. However, access to data remains significantly behind the openness of information in countries such as the US.’

‘If there is one thing that the growth of the business on the internet has shown us, it’s that there are tremendous benefits to making more data available to people for free,’ concluded Matt Aird.

For more information about Bizwiki, the free business wiki that anyone can edit, see http://www.bizwiki.co.uk

For more information about INSPIRE, see http://publicgeodata.org/

For more information about The Guardian’s Free our Data Campaign http://www.freeourdata.org.uk/

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