Are the big opportunities for citizen engagement, creating accountability and economic growth being missed?
Is the government’s transparency agenda hitting the rocks? Are the big opportunities for citizen engagement, creating accountability and economic growth being missed?
For the last 18 months, ORG has been watching the coalition’s Open Data policy. It has morphed from being an extremely ambitious project, with huge potential to revitalize democracy and drive innovation, to something rather confused. It has failed to address the big questions around data that is vital as infrastructure, like maps and post codes, but is currently sold rather than freely released.
Worse, the Open Data agenda has been used to promote the release of access to psuedonymised data, like health or benefits records, on commercial terms. This carries considerable risks and has nothing to do with (freely released) Open Data.
Today, we are presenting evidence to the Public Accounts Committee about the state of government Open Data policy. They are examining the National Audit Office’s report, which is critical of the government’s Open Data Strategy.
We will be highlighting two major problems. Firstly, the lack of a way of assessing the impact of releasing public data, especially data currently sold. This has led to essentially the status quo being kept in relation to the Public Data Group (Ordnance Survey, Met Office, HM Land Registry and Companies House).run by BIS.
These companies want to keep selling data, because it works for them. But is it the way to get the best value for the economy? The fact is that the government does not seem to know and has not published any methodology for assessing this problem.
The second question we will be talking about is privacy. A debate about commercial use of personal datasets, through ‘anonymisation’ techniques, has been thrown into the Open Data debate. It has nothing to do with Open Data, and raises serious questions. We want this placed in the open, and debated separately. We also want to know why the O’Hara report into privacy that the Cabinet Office commissioned has been demoted to a ‘consultation submission, needing no official response.
Read our full submission