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.’