The Government want to make data more transparent…

11Jul11

The government have made commitments to a whole new range of data transparency initiatives, which look set to make the UK government (and data.gov) a world leader in open data.

The Guardian reported that in an open-letter to the cabinet, David Cameron announced a range of initiatives that will “represent the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world, and demonstrate our determination to make the public sector more transparent and accountable”, including a release of the Treasury’s Coins Database and details on Government spending over £25,000.

The twenty-strong list of commitments are best explained in The Guardian Datablog’s breakdown but were announced on the Number 10 website in an article with some comment from Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister.

Her words seemed to promote the data release as a benefit for everyday life;

The new commitments represent a quantum leap in government transparency and will radically help to drive better public services. Having this data available will help people find the right doctor for their needs or the best teacher for their child and will help frontline professionals compare their performance and effectiveness and improve it.” 

These proposals follow on from the announcements in May of last year that data on government spending and crime data would be made more accessible, leading to the launch of the National Crime Maps in February.

There are still issues with how the data will be handled and received by the public, and the public may also be sceptical of a massive data release set to aid the progress of investigative journalism, especially in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and the closure of the News of the World.

The National Crime Maps were slated by critics and the data used was said to be near impossible to extract and use in a constructive way. It will be key to see how the government plan to release the new datasets and whether they will be in a usable, translatable and extractable format.

The criticisms of the Coins data set are a perfect example of data being collated, ‘distributed’ and still being difficult to extract journalistic value from.

Let’s just say it’s hard to remain positive.

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