glossary

Information Asset Register

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IARs are registers specifically set up to capture and organise meta-data about the vast quantities of information held by government departments and agencies. A comprehensive IAR includes databases, old sets of files, recent electronic files, collections of statistics, research and so forth.

The EU PSI Directive recognises the importance of asset registers for prospective re-users of public information. It requires member states to provide lists, portals, or something similar. It states: ” Tools that help potential re-users to find documents available for re-use and the conditions for re-use can facilitate considerably the cross-border use of public sector documents. Member States should therefore ensure that practical arrangement are in place that help re-users in their search for documents available for reuse. Assets lists, accessible preferably online, of main documents (documents that are extensively re-used or that have the potential to be extensively re-used), and portal sites that are linked to decentralised assets lists are example of such practical arrangements.”

IARs can be developed in different ways. Government departments can develop their own IARs and these can be linked to national IARs. IARs can include information which is held by public bodies but which has not yet been – and maybe will not be – proactively published. Hence they allow members of the public to identify information which exists and which can be requested. “For the public to make use of these IARs, it is important that any registers of information held should be as complete as possible in order to be able to have confidence that documents can be found. The incompleteness of some registers is a significant problem as it creates a degree of unreliability which may discourage some from using the registers to search for information.”

It is essential that the metadata in the IARs should be comprehensive so that search engines can function effectively. In the spirit of open government data, public bodies should make their IARs available to the general public as raw data under an open license so that civic hackers can make use of the data, for example by building search engines and user interfaces.