We're turning Britain into the most open and transparent and country on earth. Here's how you can benefit too

The Cabinet Secretary on the motivation behind Whitehall's data crusade

Related Topics

For as many years as Britain has had a centralised civil service we have been rather good at collecting information.

From the first censuses in 1801 to the creation of the Central Statistical Office by Winston Churchill, the amount of information gathered and held by Government has exponentially increased as our society has become more complex. Today we hold  raw information on everything from pupil performance by class, crime levels on every street in the country and the success rate for every single operation in your local hospital. We can even tell at the touch of a button how late your train into work is likely to be.


But while we’ve been steadily improving the way we collect data, if we’re honest, historically the civil service has been less good at releasing it to the people who most need it and can make most use of it: the public. That is changing. Over the last two years alone nearly 9,000 sets of data have been released on subjects including health, transport, justice and education. All of this information, which is anonymous, can be used to understand issues of importance to the public and fashioned into innovative data-driven new businesses that will provide a service to the public and boost economic growth.

But which data is it best to release? A process is now in place to decide and put more power in the hands of users. The Open Data User Group, made up of members of the data community, and drawing on suggestions from business, academia and the general public, recently made its first recommendations to the Data Strategy Board for open data that should be prioritised for release.

Data releases won’t always be comfortable for the civil service or government – but that is rather the point of transparency, giving people the information they need to make choices about their lives and highlighting areas where the public sector is under-performing. Eventually the raw data we release will allow the public to assess how well their local school, their local hospital, council and police force are doing and provide a powerful incentive for improvement.

Put simply Government’s aspiration is to make Britain the most open, transparent country in the world. Handled correctly this will be a tremendous force for good. It is essential we take the opportunity to deliver a more open and transparent civil service, whether sharing information or developing policy. Within the service we have some of Britain’s foremost experts on the biggest issues the country faces, but we don’t have all the experts.


But this transparency agenda does not stop at our borders. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) met in London for the first time this week, with Francis Maude representing the UK as the lead co-chair. Mary Robinson, Mo Ibrahim and Graca Machel were confirmed to the International Expert Panel that will advise the partnership.

Since its establishment as a global movement the OGP has grown from 8 founding members to 58 governments now committed to delivering greater openness and accountability in their countries. Transparency makes for better Government and the British Government is determined to retain our global leadership. We are pushing that agenda both nationally and internationally.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London