Sector map: O - Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

Full Name (abbr.): Making Open Data Real

The Open Data consultation paper sets out Government’s proposed approach for Transparency and Open Data Strategy, which is aimed at establishing a culture of openness and transparency in public services. We (the Cabinet Office) want to hear from everyone – citizens, businesses, public services themselves, and other interest groups – on how we can best embed a culture of openness and transparency in our public services.

Owners: Transparency Team in the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom

Target Groups: Citizens, businesses, public services,

Baseline: Summary of current environment (Taken from Chapter 6 of the Consultation Document)

6.1 At the moment, government‟s approach to the release of public data can be described as haphazard and in need of reform. Some key examples include: It is not always clear what government department or public body from which to access data, nor the process required (e.g. Freedom of Information requests can be denied because the relevant department has not been contacted, and the permission process for licensed information – even where anonymised - can be lengthy and complicated); We collect but do not publish other datasets e.g. data behind the indices of deprivation is not released, and the questions underlying the monthly Labour Force survey (without additional permissions); Local public services collect data but do not always make it available in accessible public formats e.g. release of location identifiers has been restricted for linking with certain datasets (including Citizenship Survey and Pupil Level School Census data) impeding more insightful analysis on migration and patterns of demand for education; and Boundaries are not clear as to what public service data is. Some public service data is held by non-government or quasi government service providers and not subject to FoIA legislation.

6.3 The current legislative, statutory and regulatory landscape is multi-faceted and its key elements include:

  • Freedom of Information Act (FoIA)1;
  • the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs)2;
  • the Data Protection Act (DPA)3;
  • the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations (RPSI)4; and
  • the INSPIRE Regulations5.

The first three are regulated by the Information Commissioner‟s Office (ICO)6 and The National Archives (TNA) has further regulatory responsibilities, including the investigation of complaints under the RPSI as well as managing Crown Copyright, and monitoring compliance against required standards under the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS). For queries and complaints under the INSPIRE Regulations, the ICO deals with restrictions of access, TNA with charging, and the UK Location Coordination Unit (DEFRA) with technical matters. Scotland will make its own arrangements. The degree to which this legislative framework applies to different public service providers varies, and this has often helped to create confusion and act as a barrier to openness.

Blueprint: (Taken from Chapter 4 of the Consultation Document)
4.8 This document sets out a number of levers that the Government is considering using to make Open Data and Transparency the operating principle of public services, including the creation of an enhanced right to data, giving individuals and organisations the right to access, interpret and utilise data in an enhanced form for bodies already subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) or Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) legislation, and a new right to data for a wider range of public service providers extending to cover providers who have been funded, commissioned or established by statute to provide a service.
4.9 Simply stated, the proposals outline how we will move to a position where most data held by public bodies and about public services will be available for re-use under the Open Government Licence, except in very specific circumstances. There will continue to be exceptions, for example for personal data, data that through release might compromise national security or Ministerial decision-making. When considering whether or not to charge for data, a transparent business case setting out why will be made, including any cost or value for money implications, unless the data falls into one of the exceptions set out above.

Actions and Resources:
A policy framework was set out at a high level for consultation over the summer (August to October 2011). The Transparency Team in the Cabinet Office has published the responses in January 2012. It will use that consultation to refine and develop proposals further, and following consultation will publish a fuller document confirming the Government‟s policy approach.

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