Press release

Call to arms for the global media

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Francis Maude will call on the media to work with civil society and international experts to scrutinise government through open public data.

17 October 2012
CAB 109-12

The media should be at the forefront of the international transparency movement, using the increasing amounts of open data released by governments to help drive prosperity, expose public corruption and waste, and hold governments to account, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude will say.

Francis Maude will be speaking [on Wednesday, 17 October] at a conference organised by the think tank Reform for the first anniversary of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), of which the UK is now lead chair. The Partnership is a multilateral initiative for transparency of which Britain was a founder - it now has 57 members, covering a third of the world’s population.

The minister will say that while it is the responsibility of governments to keep pushing public data out, it is for others to determine how that data should be used. He will call on the media to work with civil society and international experts to scrutinise governments using a new Independent Reporting Mechanism.

Francis Maude will say:

There’s every reason for governments to sign up to transparency. The danger is that they sign up to it on their own terms, reneging on commitments when it suits them.

The key priority for the UK is to establish an Independent Reporting Mechanism to allow civil society groups and international experts to scrutinise OGP members.

The media - abroad as much as here - has a unique role. Journalists everywhere need to engage with this data to expose waste, incompetence and corruption wherever they see it.

That’s why I’m issuing a call to arms to the media the world over to hold the feet of government officials and ministers like me squarely against the fire.

I don’t have any doubt that giving our Press a lot of data to pore over will at times be uncomfortable for us in government. But that’s the whole point. A closed door culture encourages complacency at best and at worst corruption.

Over the last two years, the UK government has committed to making more and more data freely available. The data.gov.uk web portal is now the largest data resource in the world, with over 40,000 data files.

Francis Maude will say:

We’re not doing this because we think it looks good - it is having a transformative effect on our public services, giving people choices they’ve never had before and driving improvements. For example, we are now publishing information on how GP practices perform when handling cancer cases, so patients can compare survival rates between practices and make informed decisions about their care.

The minister will note that much of what the UK is doing is exportable, and that the government wants to share what it considers the building blocks of transparency and Open Government with the rest of the world. He will announce:

Cabinet Office has developed a guide for other countries and administrations to build an online data portal, using the open source code from data.gov.uk. We want to see the equivalents of our data portal in place all over the world.

Notes to editors

  1. Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, will speak at “The Future is Open” conference, 17 October, organised by Reform.
  2. The Open Government Partnership was formally launched in September 2011 by the eight founding governments (United Kingdom, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United States).
  3. The OGP is a multilateral initiative which aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The UK’s drive for greater international transparency will help to promote and deliver the Golden Thread of development and support the UK’s joint leadership of the post Millennium Development Goals.
  4. The OGP co-chairs provide strategic leadership to the initiative, convene the steering committee as necessary, facilitate proposals on relevant policy/governance issues, and conduct outreach on behalf of OGP with governments, civil society, the private sector, donors and the media.
  5. The UK will have the role of “senior” co-chair, alongside “junior” co-chair Indonesia, until September 2013. The UK’s vision for its year as lead chairman can be viewed at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
  6. The UK is one of the most open and transparent governments in the world. As lead co-chair of the OGP, the UK aims to drive forward the global transparency initiative. Since helping to found the OGP just one year ago with seven other governments, the UK has helped to grow the initiative to 57 nations.
  7. Transparency is a key component of the UK government’s public services reform agenda and of its programme of support for economic and social growth. Transparency commitments have been taken forward through three major policy announcements: the first two through prime ministerial letters to government departments in May 2010 and July 2011; with additional commitments announced as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, in November 2011, and Open Data White Paper in July 2012. Find out about the government’s Transparency programme.
  8. You can stay in touch with government activity on transparency and open public data at data.gov.uk, and through Twitter: @UKTransparency; @datagovuk; and @cabinetofficeuk and with the Open Government Partnership @opengovpart