Government transparency update

28 06 2010

On 24th June the PM David Cameron held the first meeting of the Public Sector Transparency Board, established with a view to push the government’s transparency agenda. Members include Sir Tim-Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Professor Nigel Shadbolt, an expert on open data from Southampton University, Tom Steinberg (founder of mysociety) and Dr Rufus Pollock, a Cambridge University economist who co-founded the Open Knowledge Foundation.

At the first meeting the board set up some new Public Data Transparency principles, which were, briefly:

  • Public data policy and practice will be clearly driven by the public and businesses who want and use the data, including what data is released when and in what form;
  • Public data will be published in reusable, machine-readable form;
  • Public data will be released under the same open licence which enables free reuse, including commercial reuse;
  • Public data will be available and easy to find through a single easy to use online access point (http://www.data.gov.uk)
  • Public data will be published using open standards and following the recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium;
  • Public data underlying the Government’s own websites will be published in reusable form for others to use;
  • Public data will be timely and fine grained;
  • Release data quickly, and then republish it in linked data form;
  • Public data will be freely available to use in any lawful way;
  • Public bodies should actively encourage the re-use of their public data; and
  • Public bodies should maintain and publish inventories of their data holdings.

The full list of draft principles is available here.

On the same day, the PM and Deputy PM Nick Clegg wrote a letter to public sector workers asking for their ideas on how the government can do more for less, in conjunction with the Spending Review announced in the budget. The proposal is being dubbed the ‘Spending Challenge’ and it aims to engage the public in considering how public services can be provided as effectively as possible.

In the letter, the full version of which is here, Cameron and Clegg said “We want you to help us find those savings, so we can cut public spending in a way that is fair and responsible. You work on the frontline of public services. You know where things are working well, where the waste is, and where we can re-think things so that we get better services for less money.”

In a statement on 25th June Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, announced that the public would be welcomed to comment on the recent developments in the government drive for transparency and open data and put forward their own ideas on how to make government more cost-effective.

He commented on the recent developments: “In just a few weeks this Government has published a whole range of data sets that have never been available to the public before.  But we don’t want this to be about a few releases, we want transparency to become an absolutely core part of every bit of government business.   That is why we have asked some of the country’s and the world’s greatest experts in this field to help us take this work forward quickly here in central government and across the whole of the public sector.

“And in the spirit of transparency we are asking everyone to comment on our ideas and help us to define these important principles.  Anyone who wants to will be able to put forward their suggestions for what the principles should be by logging on to data.gov.uk.”

Charlotte Jee                   (@charlottejee)

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5 responses

28 06 2010
Karl Havard

Hi Charlotte, What are your thoughts on how the transparency initiatives will manifest? There is a lot of written commitment to this cause, which is very admirable and great for the Government to take the lead (some large corporates should sit up, listen and follow suit). However, how are they going to facilitate genuine dialogue with the general public? Karl

28 06 2010
Rob

In January 2010 it was announced that TSO had partnered with Garlik Limited to offer hosted linked data solutions to the public sector[1].

In the name of transparency, the Cabinet Office should disclose[2] that Public Sector Transparency Board member Nigel Shadbolt has financial interests in Garlik. Nigel Shadbolt is a founding director and employee of Garlik Limited [3][4][5].

[1] http://www.tso.co.uk/press/latestnews/archive/2010/triplestore/
[2] http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/100625-board/bios.aspx
[3] http://directors.mapofpower.com/appointees/06746857
[4] http://www.garlik.com/who.php
[5] http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/nrs/

29 06 2010
links for 2010-06-28 « riverrun by meaghn | beta

[…] Government transparency update « The Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age (tags: gov2.0 ws_blocked transparency) […]

29 06 2010
Businesses unwilling to share data, but keen on government doing it | Breaking News

[…] reuse, including a postcode-to-location dataset. On 24 June the Prime Minister, David Cameron, chaired the first meeting of the government’s Public Transparency Board which declared that public data should be released under an open licence that enables free […]

30 06 2010
Charlotte

Hi Karl,

The transparency initiatives are already manifesting themselevs in actions such as the opening up of COINs data and the data that has been published on civil service salaries. We are yet to see how these initiatives will further manifest- the government is currently receiving comments from public sector workers but the consultation process will open up to the general public on 9th July – http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/. What happens from then on, we can only speculate.

This is only the beginning, but hopefully it will kickstart an irreversible process where greater transparency becomes a permanent feature of UK government. The belief that people deserve to see where their tax is spent is taking root, and I feel that this is a fundamental change that all future governments will have to take into account. How this develops remains to be seen, but rest assured that we will post relevant news stories on the blog.

Charlotte (@charlottejee)

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