Government funds early release of open flood data

The Environment Agency has brought forward the release of open data about flood risk, the government announced today.

In a wide ranging speech on open data in government, Maude said the release of the data, originally planned for April, will be released imminently.

Previously the government charged for the data and imposed strict copyright requirements on its use, preventing councils and businesses from making effective use of it.

Maude said: “This release was originally planned for next April, but we’ve brought it forward with the support of funding from the Cabinet Office.

“It accompanies the release of other open data from the Environment Agency including real time river levels, flood warnings, and flood alerts.

“Together, this will enable businesses large and small to develop local flood warning systems or integrate the data into their systems.”

At the start of the year, the Cabinet Office brought together 200 software developers and computer programmers, giving them access to data including 15 minute readings from every river level sensor in the UK.

Maude said: “Within two days, they came up with a range of solutions to help – from a phone service that connects people with their energy supplier in a power cut, to an app that alerts Twitter users to local volunteering opportunities.”

There is huge potential for integrating flood data with other apps such as Google Maps and social media, he said.

Elsewhere, the speech identified the ability of open data to allow citizens to make better decisions over their lives.

“Publishing local crime statistics helps residents demand more, and in a more focused way, from local police forces and publishing exam results helps parents find a school that’s right for their children,” Maude said.

And he added that the Cabinet Office will continue to work with the Local Government Association and Open Data Institute to coordinate the release of data “across a multitude of different, overlapping local services and jurisdictions”

Colin Marrs

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