1 Introduction |
1. Open data is playing an
increasingly important role in Government and society. It is data
that is accessible to all, free of restrictions on use or redistribution
and also digital and machine-readable so that it can be combined
with other data, and thereby made more useful. This report looks
at how the vast amounts of data generated by central and local
Government can be used in open ways to improve accountability,
make Government work better and strengthen the economy.
2. In this inquiry, we examined progress against
a series of major government policy announcements on open data
in recent years, and considered the prospects for further development.
We heard of government open data initiatives going back some years,
including the decision in 2009 to release some Ordnance Survey
(OS) data as open data, and the Public Sector Mapping Agreement
(PSMA) which makes OS data available for free to the public sector.
The 2012 Open Data White Paper 'Unleashing the Potential' says
that transparency through open data is "at the heart"
of the Government's agenda and that opening up would "foster
innovation and reform public services".
In 2013 the report of the independently-chaired review by Stephan
Shakespeare, Chief Executive of the market research and polling
company YouGov, of the use, re-use, funding and regulation of
Public Sector Information urged Government to move fast to make
use of data. He criticised
traditional public service attitudes to data before setting out
To paraphrase the great retailer Sir Terry Leahy,
to run an enterprise without data is like driving by night with
no headlights. And yet that is what Government often does. It
has a strong institutional tendency to proceed by hunch, or prejudice,
or by the easy option. So the new world of data is good for government,
good for business, and above all good for citizens. Imagine if
we could combine all the data we produce on education and health,
tax and spending, work and productivity, and use that to enhance
the myriad decisions which define our future; well, we can, right
now. And Britain can be first to make it happen for real.
3. This was followed by publication in October 2013
of a National Action Plan which sets out the Government's view
of the economic potential of open data as well as its aspirations
for greater transparency.
4. This inquiry is part of our wider programme of
work on statistics and their use in Government. A full description
of the studies is set out under the heading "Statistics"
in the inquiries section of our website, which can be found at
www.parliament.uk/pasc. For this inquiry we received 30 pieces
of written evidence and took oral evidence from 12 witnesses.
We are grateful to all those who have provided evidence and to
our Specialist Adviser on statistics, Simon Briscoe, for his assistance
with this inquiry.
1 Open Data User Group (OD 14) para 2 Back
Cabinet Office, Open Data White Paper: Unleashing the
Potential Cm 8353, June 2012, p 5 Back
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Shakespeare Review: An Independent Review of Public Sector Information,
May 2013 (hereafter Shakespeare Review) Back
As above, p 4 Back
Cabinet Office, Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan 2013 to 2015,
October 2013 Back