Implementing transparency

Hot on the heels of the post by Andrea di Maio comes a UK National Audit Office (NAO) report entitled ‘Implementing Transparency’ (PDF, 44 pages 0.8 Mb). Given the recent OGP meeting in Brasilia mentioned by Andrea and attended by the UK government and the post “What is ‘open government’“, the report makes interesting reading, since the criticisms are largely replicated in the report.

Typically it picks out that only in 7% of cases is the UK data presented using open standards from World Wide Web consortium, to enable linking e.g. rdf, whilst the largest chunk uses CSV. Two important comments are:

“2.14 The Cabinet Office did not engage with the public to establish demand for the standard data releases outlined in the Prime Minister’s letters, but did consult with developers and industry to identify the additional releases announced in the Autumn Statement 20116 (see paragraph 4.1).

2.15 None of the departments reported significant spontaneous public demand for the standard dataset releases.”

But we then get onto cost-benefit analysis, where the report states that:

“2.21 Although the Government has wide-ranging objectives for transparency, few attempts have yet been made to monitor emerging benefits.”

Local government is not ignored either and a part of the report commencing on page 26 covers what the NAO have discovered from their research of council websites, and there appear to be a number of gaps, although work on LG Inform is expected to help fill some of them, although with 750 metrics to be filled in when it’s planned to go live in September 2012, I don’t imagine everyone who has to supply the data will be so delighted.

In conclusion, I think government needs to look seriously at the report and attempt to answer the questions posed. As occurred with e-government we don’t want excessive sums of money and a great deal of effort wasted chasing something that is not going to benefit the public. I know the claim was used for e-government that it provided traction but we apparently no longer have the cash for further indulgences.

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4 Responses to Implementing transparency

  1. bmwelby says:

    Whilst the debate at a local level is understood to be about the value of the data when the public gets their hands on it I think that we run the risk of missing a massive opportunity for shifting the way we think internally.

    I was at a meeting before Christmas where the use of our published data wrapped in open source code written by someone external gave managers an insight into something that was previously murky.

    I’ve written a few posts exploring what I think think that means. It might interest you – http://bm.wel.by/series/open-data-magic-from-the-inside-out

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