Transparency and Open data: Looking forward
As this is my first blog post on data.gov.uk (indeed, my very first blog post anywhere, ever), I should probably start by introducing myself. I’m Ollie Buckley, and since December last year, I’ve been leading the Transparency Team in the Cabinet Office. Before that, I was focused on our international transparency work (in the context of the UK’s leadership of both the G8 and the Open Government Partnership in particular), so I’m not totally new to the agenda – but I’m also under no illusions about how much there’s still for me to learn.
2013 was an extraordinary year for transparency on both the domestic and international fronts, and we’re very proud of the achievements of that year. G8 leaders signed up to an Open Data Charter, which is already spreading to countries beyond the G8; we completed our first iteration of the National Information Infrastructure (a world-first); published a new UK OGP National Action Plan with 21 stretching commitments to transparency from across government; and we hosted a successful OGP Annual Summit – with around 1,500 representatives from more than 80 countries over two days, including a smattering of heads of government, a lot of ministers and civil society leaders, and a live link up with John Kerry in the U.S.
In 2014 we’re determined to build on the momentum of last year - and while we may not have the G8 presidency or leadership of the OGP this time (“thank goodness”, some of the battle-scarred members of the team might say...), there’s huge scope for further progress.
As a team, we see three elements to our mission:
Getting high quality data out of government and into the public’s hands
Bringing the power of open data to a wider audience – including finding ways to encourage develops to create transformative applications
Maintaining Britain’s global position as a leader on open data and transparency
Within this framing, we’ve identified a number of areas where we think we can make some rapid progress over the months ahead:
1.Pushing on the next wave of Open Data: by helping to facilitate and incentivise big new releases from local government; by looking to introduce standard transparency clauses into central government contracts; and, of course, by continuing to push for the release of priority datasets from central government – such as flood data, or the VAT register.
2.Developing the National Information Infrastructure: we’re looking at how we might move towards service level agreements between government and users of the top priority datasets contained in the NII to ensure timeliness of updates and the quality of data
3.Leveraging UK leadership internationally: we’re continuing to encourage wider adoption of the Open Data Charter beyond the G8; playing an active role in the ongoing development of the OGP; and, separate to our work through the OGP, building on strategic bilateral partnerships, and with international organisations.
Finally, we want to devote some more time and attention to getting the basics right: so we’re working with departments to address broken links on data.gov.uk; we’re making improvements to the data requests process so that requests are dealt with faster and more effectively; and we’re taking a more structured and strategic approach to the funds available to support open data, for example by working to raise awareness of the Release of Data Fund, and designing a clear and rigorous approach for evaluating bids. This and other funds could see more than £7m released to support the release and use of open data – a huge potential opportunity to move the agenda forward.
Taken together I think these represent a very exciting set of opportunities for building on the momentum that was built during 2013- and we in the Transparency Team look forward to working with you to make these a reality over the year ahead.