G8 sign up to Open Data Charter

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The G8 countries have committed to supporting the underlying principles of open data at Lough Erne this week by signing up to an Open Data Charter.

The charter binds each participating country to manage its data under a number of principles: that data is open ‘by default’; that as much data is released in the highest quality possible; and that it is released in useable formats. These actions, the charter decrees, will have ‘enormous potential to create more accountable, efficient, responsive, and effective governments and businesses’.
 
Supporters of open data predict that the deal will impact on other key issues being discussed at Lough Erne this week, such as tax. ‘Open data will demonstrate how companies are paying tax, in what jurisdictions and who owns what. This will help untangle the corporate web to ensure fair returns to the countries that host and support companies,’ explained the Open Data Institute’s director Nigel Shadbolt in The Telegraph. He also described how one of The ODI’s startup companies identified £200 million of savings in the NHS for one class of prescription drugs, through access to government data.
 
The signing up to the Open Data Charter comes just a week after the government issued positive responses to recommendations from both the Shakespeare Review and the Administrative Data Taskforce.
 
In its response to the Shakespeare Review, the government recommended the formation of a National Data Strategy, for which the government will now set out implementation plans in October (via its forthcoming Open Government Partnership National Action Plan). The government has also proposed a review of governance arrangements to open up public sector information and has set a date of 2015 whereby ‘core departmental data’, as defined in the Shakespeare review, will be released.
 
The recommendations of the newly-formed Administrative Data Taskforce have also been met with a positive response. An Administrative Data Research Centre is proposed for each of the four countries in the UK, as well as the implementation of legislation and provision of funds to support research access to administrative data.
 
Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society said: ‘The UK is taking a positive and leading role in the open data movement, and the government must be congratulated on this. In an era of austerity, opening up data is one way to increase innovation and economic activity at a relatively low cost. It needs to be accompanied by a strengthening of the skills base of the population so that people are data literate.
 
‘The RSS is playing its part in this through the getstats campaign to promote statistical literacy.’
 

Open Data Institute launch open data certification scheme

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The ODI used the G8 Summit to launch its global Open Data Certificate scheme, a new initiative designed to help people find, understand and use open data.

The certificates have been created to help ensure a certain level of quality to any open data that is released, and were unveiled as the G8 countries signed up to a new Open Data Charter.
 
‘The certificates will help to create the right conditions for innovation, making open data easier to find, share and use,’ said Gavin Starks of the ODI. ‘We want to give confidence to people to invest their time, energy, and money.’
 
He anticipates a wide global take-up of the certificates, which will convey the quality level of the data, (ranging from ‘Raw’ to ‘Expert’), as well as a human and machine-readable description of the data being released. It is hoped the certificates will help data users to understand the quality, licensing and usability of the data in question. It is also hoped the certificates will be able to generate confidence in the data it represents.
 
Jeni Tennison, technical director at the ODI, said that certification will set high expectations. ‘Anyone who gets a certificate, at whatever level, has done really well,’ she added. Organisations already signed up to the scheme include OpenStreetMap, amee (an environmental scoring system for British companies), MastodonC (energy monitoring data analysis) and Placr (transport data).
 
Certificates are available online at certificates.theodi.org.

 

Visible stats in West Sussex

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Three cheers for the elected members of West Sussex County Council - they have signed up for International Year of Statistics (Statistics2013) on the grounds that statistics cannot any longer remain the ‘invisible science’.
 
Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, says ‘statistics are essential for planning future council services, such as creating school places and other important infrastructure decisions.
 
‘They allow us to assess and monitor our projects and services, adding value and enabling us improve outcomes for our residents.
 
‘By joining Statistics2013, we will be part of a year-long, global awareness campaign and demonstrating that it is much more than just numbers.’
 
The Tory-controlled council joins 1,400 organisations in 111 countries in highlighting the contributions statistics make to finding solutions to global challenges. The campaign aims to increase understanding of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society, as well as nurturing statistics as a professional activity.
 

Announcing the new chair for RSS getstats campaign

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We are extremely pleased to announce that the new Chair of the getstats Campaign Board is Robert Chote, Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
 
Looking forward to his new role, Robert said “The campaign is a great initiative. Improving public understanding of numbers, quantitative data and statistics is a huge challenge – for schools and colleges, journalists and bloggers, parliamentarians and commentators and civil servants and business people too. The campaign has made a great start”.

Benefits are changing, and the stats

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From April this year, the government is bringing in a sweeping set of changes to social benefits, with new names, new rules and – the Department of Work and Pensions has just launched a consultation - new statistics.

The government is calling the new scheme Universal Credit. The original idea had been to roll together the cash support offered poor households, but that has proved too difficult: separate benefits for pensioners, the disabled and children will remain. But households with adults of working age, in and out of work, will experience a major rationalization of state support, and tougher eligibility rules.

The most high profile of the changes is a cap, an upper limit, in the total amount of benefits a working-age household can receive – in theory it will be no more than the average weekly wage for working households. But the benefits system was and remains complicated. The administration of support for rents and housing costs is moving to local authorities and councils may choose to administer systems in different ways – though all are under pressure to cut costs.

In line, it says, with the government’s broader aims of opening up data and making government more transparent, the DWP says it will put out more data on benefits, showing in detail the characteristics and location of households making claims on social security.

 

Evidence-informed policy at heart of 'What Works' centres

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Evidence, data and numbers must be built into the DNA of Whitehall, it was asserted at this week’s launch of a new government initiative to improve the use of experiments and trials in public policy.
 
Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister said that “Government must become more rational”, hence the new ‘What Works’ centres which will draw on research to test whether policies on crime, local economic growth, ageing, health and schools are valid.

Former RSS president appointed to UKSA board

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Former RSS president, Professor David Hand, is to take up the post of non-executive director at the UK Statistics Authority for three years, from 1 April 2013.

David was President of the Royal Statistical Society for two terms, 2008-09 and 2010. He is still very active in the Society, being current chair of the Society’s National Statistics Advisory Group as well as director of the Society’s National Statistics theme. He won the Royal Statistical Society’s Guy Medal in Silver in 2002 and was awarded the OBE for services to Research and Innovation in the New Year Honours in 2013.

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