Free OUR Data, Sign the Petition

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Just a quick post to get a bit of knowledge out there about this here petition on the Number 10 website.

For years, the Royal Mail (a company which we (being the taxpayer) are the majority shareholders of) have been the sole custodians of something called the PAF (postcode address file), which, amongst other things, links postcode data to geographical location.

The Royal Mail charge for the use of this information, which means that, often, fantastic location based web services are impossible to run without paying huge sums of money to the Royal Mail.

In the US and other countries, this information has been free of charge to everyone, meaning that anyone can build great location-based mashups with nothing more than a list of addresses.

It’s a real shame that we can’t do the same thing in the UK, and it’s an even bigger shame that it’s a publicly-run body (that, let’s not forget, uses public money to gather that data) that’s stopping us doing this. It’s even more maddening that other public sector organisations have to use taxpayer’s money to get this data.

So, yes, while Number 10 petitions have a track record of never achieving anything but a condescending response from Gordon Brown’s PR team, I think it’s important that we just give it a try. It’s even more timely as the recent Power of Information Taskforce Report mentioned that if organisations such as the Royal Mail et al opened up their datasets, the loss in revenue would be counter-balanced by the gain in tax revenue from new startups utilising this data.

So go on, give it a crack, you have nothing to lose but two minutes of your time!