The following guest post is from Andrew Stott, who sits on the UK Government’s Public Sector Transparency Board. In his former role as Director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, Andrew helped to set up the UK’s open data initiative.

Today’s announcement about the next year of the UK Government’s Transparency and Open Data programme shows both new initiatives for the next year and consolidation of the achievements made in the last 12 months.

The 2010-11 commitments were largely about making the spending and other ‘inputs’ of public services more transparent.  Having done that, the headline commitments for 2011-12 focus more on the performance and ‘outputs/outcomes’ of key public services in health, education, transport and crime & justice – aimed at both supporting choice by citizens and helping frontline professionals compare their outcomes and effectiveness with others.   Once again there is a staged programme of data release through the year, and a requirement for consistent data from all the delivery units in each sector.

The full text of the Prime Minister’s letter also brings out other important elements of the programme:

  • in his podcast on 29 May last year Prime Minister David Cameron said that in the first year “I don’t want to hang around making sure everything is perfect – I want to get on with it”, and this was done.  So, as originally planned, there is now a programme to improve the quality of the data already being published and to ensure that it is updated on a regular basis.  This will take account of the feedback received from developers and other data users.
  • development of unique reference indicators for UK businesses – not just companies.   These will enable the easier tracking of interactions between companies and government bodies – and help government itself know how much different agencies are spending with each supplier.  (It will be important to work with early movers such as OpenCorporates in this development.)
  • more work on the economic opportunities of open data, as part of the second phase of the government’s Growth Review and as foreshadowed in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s recent Zeitgeist speech
  • transparency boards for each of the key sectors – health, education, transport, crime & justice, and work & pensions – to help drive out further open data from each.
  • embedding Transparency and Open Data into the normal business of government through departmental business plans and information strategies.

Both new data and existing data commitments will be published in an open, standardised format under the Open Government Licence so that it can be freely reused.

In his Zeitgeist speech George Osborne declared the UK Government ambition “to become the world leader in open data”; today’s announcements are further steps towards that.

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