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

Share
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.

Change

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.

Leadership

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

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Liz Kendall speaks to the Westminster press pack – kamikaze or courage?

John Rentoul
Ukraine’s hope of a future with the West has ended with death and annexation in the east  

Ukraine’s tragedy casts a pall over the EU summit

Mary Dejevsky
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable