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Report of the Digital Government Review

1. Open Data

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“Data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”

Open data has been a relative success in the UK. Indeed the country is widely recognized as a world-leader in this field, thanks to initiatives such as and organisations such as the Open Data Institute [31]. Institutions such as Nesta and the Open Data Institute are building on this success and running a series of challenges to help build sustainable solutions to address major challenges for society such as the cost of renting, crime and education [32].

We would recommend continued support for and growth of open data initiatives, and a continued presumption of openness. But we also believe that a change in emphasis and approach is needed to make open data work by setting it within an appropriate social context.

Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society said in November 2014 [33]:
‘The open government data movement in some parts of the world is dominated by ahistorical and apolitical technologists, and some of them seem intent on reinventing the wheel… open data activists do not sufficiently challenge power hierarchies. When an open data activist publishes an answer, a dataset nicely scrubbed and machine-readable, a visualization, or a tool they are often frustrated because nobody seems interested in using it. Often even the activist is unclear what the question is… They seem to be obsessed only with tools and technologies, rather than power asymmetries and injustices’

Many of the constituent parts of the UK open data movement will recognise these problems and are working to address them. We hope that the measures outlined in this section will support their efforts.

In the following section we consider areas where additional effort on government open data cam improve democracy; can increase transparency and accountability; can empower people; and can get people more engaged in their public services. In effect, we see the right uses of open data creating not just economic productivity but also social productivity [34].

This social productivity will help build future economic productivity; in the meantime it will improve people’s lives and it will enhance our democracy. From our analysis it was clear that there was room for improvement.


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