British government wants to get serious about open government

In the next 12 months, citizens are to have access to a large amount of raw administrative data

Prior to their election in may 2010, both the tories and the liberal democrats had announced their intention to make administrative actions much more transparent for the british citizen. Now, prime minister david cameron wrote an open letter to his cabinet setting out a specific timetable for achieving this goal.

In the next 12 months, not only will detailed success and complaints data on doctors and hospitals be published, but also judicial data that provide information on the gender, age, ethnic affiliation and recidivism rate of convicts, traffic data from which conclusions can be drawn about the reliability of public transport, accident and traffic jam risks, the performance of schools in various subjects, as well as part of the expenditure of public authorities. The crime data from england and wales, linked to a map, which brought the government server to its knees with 18 million hits in one hour when it was published, will in future be supplemented with information on what the police are actually doing about it and what success these measures are having.

Britische regierung will mit open government ernst machen

David cameron. Photo. Remy steinegger. License: cc-by-sa.

Offering the data in raw form, rather than as artfully selected and prepared statistics, is not only intended to provide a "ara der transparenz" but also provide material for new business models that craft services from the data. In a guest article for the daily telegraph, cameron cites web services and information apps that provide quick information about delays or traffic jams as examples of this.

According to the prime minister, the greater choice that the public has in accessing administrative data has also led to more competition among public service providers and, in turn, to higher standards among them. This is shown, for example, by the survival rate for heart operations, which increased five years ago after burger access to success data was made easier "dramatically" has increased. By also making spending visible, cameron believes waste can be detected and avoided in the future. The tory chairman sees such potential savings from public prere in, among other things, civil service salaries.

For its "new era of transparency" cameron received applause not only from the more tory-leaning press, but also from newspapers such as the left-liberal guardian, where home affairs editor alan travis said the release of the crime data could fill an information vacuum created by the decline of the local press. However, the planned freedom of information does not go far enough for him, because neither names nor pictures of criminals will be published.

If cameron’s open government plans are implemented as planned, the united kingdom will be the world leader in open government next year. In germany, where a black-yellow coalition is also in power, the opposite approach seems to be being taken: there, more and more administrative and judicial data is being placed under secrecy or monopoly protection through contracts with private providers – and thus not only removed from public scrutiny, but in some cases even from parliamentary scrutiny.