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Courts, schools and health data opened to all

Ministers hope apps will be created to make the deluge of information accessible and relevant to the public

Nigel Morris
Thursday 04 August 2011 00:00 BST

Thousands of pieces of information about public services, from warnings of delays on the railways to details of jobs landed by new graduates, will be thrown open to scrutiny under plans for a "transparency revolution" announced today by the Government.

The moves follow the release of details about spending by Whitehall and town halls, as well as the disclosure of street-by-street crime rates. Plans have also been announced to publish data from schools, the National Health Service and the courts. Ministers hope that software developers and individuals will create phone 'apps' to make the information accessible and relevant to the public.

Patients will soon be able to examine the records of individual GP practices and what drugs they prescribe and how much they cost. The success of hospitals in tackling conditions such as lung cancer will be made public, along with numbers of complaints and satisfaction levels.

Parents will be able to compare the performance of local schools in teaching different subjects, as well as the performance of training organisations in passing new skills to apprentices.

Details of sentences handed down in different courts will be published and the comparative record of prisons and probation services in reducing levels of reoffending.

Travellers will be able to monitor information about roadworks, accidents and congestion, while weekly updates will be published on rail timetables.

But Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, last night declared he wanted to go much further and bring vast new swathes of previously confidential information into the open.

He cited the example of universities publishing details of their former students' employment records. Mr Maude said: "Undergraduates are going to want to have much more information about the track record of graduates from various universities in getting jobs."

He added that he wanted to see rail operators provide real-time information about delays and fares to passengers, instantly alerting travellers to problems with services. Mr Maude will today launch a web consultation on how to introduce changes which will see a host of data published online.

He said the moves would boost accountability, force bodies to become more transparent and create a culture of openness rather than secrecy.

He compared the plans to the Freedom of Information Act, which enables anyone to ask questions from public bodies. Mr Maude said: "This goes in the same direction, but will be much more open and widely available. It's freedom of information 2.0."

He denied the changes would lead to an information overload with people confused by the vast amount of published data and unable to find facts relevant to them and said the new system would enhance Britain's reputation as the most transparent government in the world, including the United States.

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