National Information Infrastructure

It’s a bit of a mouthful and it needs a moment to reflect on what it means. But the NII, as we can call it, is vital to anyone who cares about the nation’s data and what it can do to improve decision making.

A strong and ambitious NII to safeguard the publication of the nation’s key datasets will benefit everyone as it will:

  • Drive the evidence-based analysis and the effective re-design of public services
  • Create new economic opportunities as businesses, academics and entrepreneurs can use this guaranteed data to build new products, create new jobs and provide new products for citizens
  • Enable any citizen to use the data to monitor the activities of government and hold the government to account

ODUG (I am a member) has today produced a major document on the future of the NII. 

The Government set out the first iteration of the UK National Information Infrastructure (NII) in October 2013. It consists of a long list of datasets which might be useful. Yet there has been no analysis to identify the important datasets which are missing from the NII, there are no priorities or timescales set for subsequent dataset releases, the datasets which are released are not always well maintained and the overall governance of the NII is undefined.

The ODUG took the view that more needs to be done more quickly. The NII paper has been written to explain to a wide audience the importance of a nationally recognised set of open data to describe the society we live in and is intended to stimulate the debate beyond the Open Data community into the wider community.

The paper calls on this and the next Government to make sure the public data holders who are opening up their data are provided with straightforward guidance and support so that the critical data infrastructure that underpins society will be established as a national asset and properly maintained for all to use.

The paper highlights the importance of ‘Core Reference Data’ including National Address Data and Geospatial Data from the Ordnance Survey which ODUG and many other data community members have been calling for the Government to open up. This data is essential to allow other datasets to be combined for analysis without a reliance on personal data.

A good NII will allow the public sector to innovate more to design public services which are better joined-up across functions and more efficient. There is an urgent need to combine management information (data) from across different public service areas in central and local government together with that from businesses delivering services on behalf of the Government, including voluntary organisations, to analyse how things work now and how they can be made to work better in the future. This is key to help us save public money and help reduce the national deficit. The NII is fundamental to the digital transformation agenda, also to building Smart Cities.

We need our Government to commit to delivering a robust National Information Infrastructure and the more people who understand the importance of this the better!

Please read the paper and send your comments to


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