Cabinet minister Francis Maude has introduced an independent review mechanism for all the member governments of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), as the UK takes up its position as co-leader of the organisation for the next 12 months.
The OGP was formally launched in September 2011 by eight founding countries, including the UK, as a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
It has since grown to 57 member governments, representing approximately two billion people, of which 46 governments have published action plans detailing more than 300 commitments to open government. The OGP has an annual rotation of two leaders, where the UK and Indonesia will now take up their position as co-chairs up until September 2013, while the US and Brazil step down.
Speaking in New York today, Maude outlined the UK and Indonesia’s ambitions for the next year, which includes the introduction of independent country reviews.
“Twelve months ago, the UK was one of eight national governments that founded the Open Government Partnership. Now, the organisation, which includes a third of the world’s population, is a powerful global movement for change through transparency,” said Maude.
He added: “Transparency is all about greater accountability and that’s why we are putting in place a new Independent Reporting Mechanism which will see governments voluntarily subjecting themselves to the formal scrutiny of researchers drawn from civil society and supported by the media.”
An international expert panel will be appointed to oversee the independent review mechanism, but no timeline was given as to when this would occur.
The UK government is investing heavily in its open data plans, where Maude recently launched a white paper that detailed the government’s drive to release data into the public domain for analysis and re-use. However, at the time of launch Maude said that "there is nothing easy about transparency" and the "formative years of open government will be tricky".
Nonetheless, the white paper detailed new government commitments to open data, which include publishing data on which organisations receive grant funding, releasing information on how EU funds are used in the UK, and detailing the results of international aid projects.
The government has also announced that it plans to undergo a complete overhaul of the data.gov.uk site to include better search facilities, simpler ways to access information, and better tools for developers, such as API access to the catalogue holdings.
Across UK government more than 9,000 datasets have been made available via data.gov.uk and the Cabinet Office plans to launch a £10 million Open Data Institute, headed up by inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee, to help businesses maximise the commercial value of open data.
The ODI recently named Gavin Starks, founder of environmental data website AMEE, as its new CEO.
It also appointed Jeni Tennison, who is currently serving as the technical architect of legislation.gov.uk for The Stationary Office and The National Archives, as technical director.
Computerworld UK also revealed last week that The National Health Service in the UK is in discussions with the White House about how best to open up its public data for re-use.
The US’s deputy chief technology officer for government innovation, Chris Vein, said that the UK government is effectively aiming to ‘blow up’ the NHS as it is currently structured and rebuild it, and plans are set to include opening up datasets.
Vein revealed that the person in the UK heading up the discussions with the US government is Tim Kelsey, who recently left the Cabinet Office to become the national director for patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board.