USA: On May 21 2009, the Obama administration launched Data.gov , a web site that provides access to raw data from federal government agencies.
UK: In June 2009 Gordon Brown gave Tim Berners-Lee the job to help open up access to government data .
There is a huge interest of the media to unveil the story behind this new data access. From “Whitehall’s web revolution: the inside story” (The Prospect) to “Tim Berners-Lee unveils government data project” (BBC) all flavours are there.
On data.gov.uk some interesting applications that others have created and submitted can already be seen. They take data directly (API, linked data, csv downloads???) from the government data silos (so ONS and especially ONS Census geography) and use these data to offer public services.
As an example have a look at the house prices:
There is also a SPARQL endpoint, but no help page provided for it.
But it’s not all web services in a modern understanding, some public data are just given as simple downloads of xls or pdf (even tables!), so for instance births outside marriage. For most statistical offices this is a frequently offered service for some time already, in the UK it’s also part of a PR campaign.
See the listed ONS (Office National Statiscs) offer on data.gov.uk -> here