Openness and Transparency

Posted on Thu 03 June 2010 in geek

One of the things that I found encouraging about the Tory manifesto was they seemed to get the concept of government transparency and open data. While news about top civil service pay is what hit the headlines yesterday the new directive to civil servants is much wider. While the last government should be saluted for bringing the country the Freedom of Information Act this directive goes much further. The intention is to create the presumption that all government information should be proactively made available rather than released on demand.

From my point of view the two biggest items are a publishing of all central government IT contracts and access to the spending databases (at various levels of granularity depending on level of government). I expect the next few months will have all sorts of stories about excessive or hard to justify spending by various departments in the civil service. This is a good thing and hopefully the net result will be better, more accountable government.

The mechanics of delivery for all this information is going to be overseen by a new Public Sector Transparency Board which has Tom Steinberg (of MySociety fame) amongst it's members so I'm pretty hopeful this data won't end up in hard to parse and analyse proprietary formats. It will be interesting to see what sorts of uses all this information can used for.