A year ago, the Open Data Barometer: 2013 global report ranked the UK as the overall global leader in open data readiness. We played an important part in achieving that ranking, as we are responsible for information policy for public sector bodies, and for promoting open data and the Open Government Licence (OGL). Our work reflects the larger government strategy to use open data to promote transparency and accountability to the public, and to promote re-use of public sector information for economic and social gains.
But we aren’t just about policy – we are involved at a core level with open data. We archive datasets from central government, and undertake quality assurance for www.data.gov.uk
The Barometer was a collaboration between the Web Foundation and the Open Data Institute. It analysed the readiness, implementation and impact of open government data status and initiatives in 77 countries. Leading countries for open data readiness were:
4 New Zealand
5 = Denmark and Norway
Our scores were a fantastic 100% for readiness, 100% for implementation, and nearly 80% for impact (second only to the USA’s 100%).
Source: Open Data Barometer: 2013 global report (page 27).
The next edition of the Barometer is expected to be released in late November, so this is a good time to examine our achievements, and look towards where we might go from here.
How did we get to be number one?
The UK established an open data initiative in 2009, and we have placed a high policy priority on open data since then. From the start we recognised the potential of open data to support innovation and economic growth. Bodies like the Open Data Institute were established to support and speed up business use of open data.
At the direction of the Cabinet Office, government agencies were required to create a departmental open data strategy and to contribute to data.gov.uk. They had to identify actions that could stimulate the use and re-use of data. Progress against these strategies is regularly reported upon in ministerial statements, so there is high-level transparency and accountability across the whole of government.
The Open Data Users Group (ODUG) acts as a conduit for data requests and advises government on priority datasets to release. Local authorities are required to publish certain open datasets, with many establishing their own open data portals.
Plenty of activity supports the UK’s open data efforts, from training on open data topics to open data hack-days, events and competitions. There is government-supported innovation funding to help businesses to engage with open data.
Essential to the UK’s success is the grassroots aspect of open data. The number and diversity of active user communities around open data effectively provides a bottom-up momentum to complement the government’s top-down efforts.
Will we keep our top spot?
The assessments in the Barometer show that the UK is right on track with open data. We are currently working on the 2015 implementation of updated regulations on re-use of public sector information. Most public sector bodies already come under these regulations, which require them to make their information accessible… and that assures our high Barometer ranking.
One key change is that from 2015, the regulations will apply to public-sector libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives. These cultural heritage collections and related metadata are a potential resource for innovative re-use in sectors such as learning and tourism.
The areas the UK can expect to focus on in the coming years include:
- promoting re-use of public sector information through open data competitions and innovation funding support
- bringing museums, libraries and archives up to speed with open data, licensing and charging
- securing social and political impact from open data – the UK is positioned to move from a purely economic focus of open data and re-use, to using community and local government data to support policy decisions
- clarity around licensing of/charging for public information – and encouraging an open licence and no/marginal charging structure
- applying ‘open by default’ principles to new datasets
- increasing charity and voluntary sector engagement
- linking datasets, e.g. local authority portals
We are working with our public sector partners to retain the UK’s top ranking. We will let you know how we scored after the release of the next Barometer – and we are indeed hoping for a very nice early Christmas present.