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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before