Francis Maude speech on transparency

The Minister for the Cabinet Office spoke about the benefits of open data at Open for Growth, an event promoting the UK G8 priorities: tax, trade and transparency.

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

The Rt Hon Lord Maude of Horsham

How can we realise the benefits of transparency and open data? Data has become valuable raw material this century. Thanks to new technology we can access it, aggregate it, reuse it and exploit it in new and innovative ways that have the potential to drive economic and social growth.

Whereas in the past governments tended to hoard their data - today the world is opening up. We are at the beginning of a global movement towards transparency.

And with all the challenges we face today - economic, demographic, security, climate change - it’s never been more important that we are more informed, more linked up, more accountable and more efficient.

But the benefits of open data won’t just fall into our hands. It’s not just about getting data out there it’s about data that can be used and will be used effectively.

An open future needs buy-in from all of us - with users, not governments, driving the release of open data, identifying what’s valuable to them.

So I’m pleased to have this distinguished group here today. We will be harnessing the collective knowledge and experience in this room - and coming up with ideas for how the world can realise the benefits of an open data age, and how we can ensure the benefits realised are for the many not the few.

Transparency in the UK

Transparency is at the heart of the UK government’s reforming agenda. In 2013 as the chair of the international Open Government Partnership we are promoting transparency as a means to fight corruption and drive prosperity all over the world. We have also made transparency a key theme for our presidency of the G8.

And across the world transparency is having a huge impact in all kind of ways.

In Mongolia they now publish all their mining contracts that were previously siphoned into the offshore bank accounts of a mafia clique. The result has been increasing investment in education and health.

To support citizen engagement, the Budget department of the Philippine government has committed to releasing a yearly ‘People’s Budget’, a summarized and layman version of the national budget and the national budget process.

Here in the UK we are leading by example. We believe opening up exposes what is inadequate - and drives improvement. We believe opening up offers people choices over public services that they’ve never had before.

We believe opening up will drive economic and social growth by putting vast tracts of valuable raw data in the public domain for businesses and entrepreneurs to work with.

And we are committed to pushing more and more data out there. Today our web portal data.gov.uk is the largest data resource in the world with over 40,000 data files. People can scrutinise their local crime statistics, they can compare GP practice performance in handling cancer cases, parents can judge how successful particular schools and colleges are at advancing pupils on to further learning.

We are also releasing valuable datasets that will make travel easier and healthcare better, and create significant growth for industry and jobs in the UK. This includes:

  • world-first linked-data services which will enable healthcare impacts to be tracked across the entire Health Service and improve medical practice
  • prescribing data by GP practice which is proving of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry and data and analytics companies working with health data
  • real-time train and bus information to support the development of innovative applications to improve passenger journeys

At the same time anyone who thought transparency would be easy - a matter of publishing a few datasets now and again - has been extremely disillusioned.

Transparency is difficult - unlocking its benefits is tricky and it takes time. But it also sticks - once you start you can’t go back

We are continuing to release more data and making it more accessible. For example the Department for International Development has just developed an aid tracker in beta form which shows where and how our aid is being spent.

We are also developing the next iteration of our Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, which we aim to make as ambitious as we can. And we are co-creating this plan with civil society.

Today’s session

Most of all we are determined to learn from others – and visa versa. We want to import and export transparency techniques around the world.

That’s what today is all about. We will be discussing five key challenges to the open data movement. We will then take forward the best ideas - developing them and reporting back at the OGP annual summit we’re hosting here in London in October.

These challenges are:

  • releasing data
  • funding competitions
  • providing skills and tools for developing countries
  • providing expertise and technology for entrepreneurs
  • launching a taskforce on a global problem where release of open data might lead to a breakthrough solution

Before we break into discussions I would like to call on a few people to make some short presentations and announcements that further demonstrate the power and potential of open data:

Firstly Minister Mihkail Abyzov to talk about some exciting developments in Russia.

Secondly Gavin Starks who will discuss the work of the UK’s Open Data Institute and the open data certificate.

Thirdly Caroline Anstey, to talk about World Bank work and their Open and Collaborative Private Sector Platform

And finally Paula Le Dieu of Make Things Do Stuff and Mozilla to talk about their work.

Published 15 June 2013