In 2010 the UK government announced the Open Government License, which was focused on the open availability of public sector data. This replaced the long-standing previous scheme, known as the Click-Use License, where access to data was only made available to known individuals.
The benefits of the open licensing of public sector data go further than transparency and accountability. Now anybody can interrogate a great deal of information in order to retrieve official data relating to public institutions and services.
In addition, the license allows for this data to be used by companies and web applications in order to improve the service to their customers. You may have seen this information on, for example, estate agent websites that have an account of nearby schools, facilities and other statistics about the local area to aid in your house-buying decisions.
Further to this, individuals are able to make data requests of public service administrators under the Freedom of Information Act, and when successful these data sets often find themselves making their way online, as this is also definable as public information.
The only drawback to the availability of this wide range of data is being able to sift through the information and draw conclusions effectively from it. For example, we can see here a wealth of public data that is updated on a routine basis, but to pull out trends and analysis on specific points of interest would require forming a database of the various data sets for querying, which the average user most likely won't have the specialist knowledge or time to do. The awkwardness of dealing with unwieldy data sets has been recognised by authorities, and tools such as this one relating to schools are being provided by public service departments to help bring meaning to the abundance of raw data available.
The role of UKNat is to provide an independent platform for sharing this same data in a way that the common user or researcher will find useful. Data is provided "as is" without favouring any particular organisation, with the sole aim of making the data more easily accessible and understandable. The aim is to provide a deeper level of insight than the tools provided by public departments or other third party websites working with the same data sets, with the site expanding to become a useful repository for users requiring more than a superficial understanding of public sector data.