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Prime minister’s special envoy ‘disappointed’ with open data use

Prime minister’s special envoy ‘disappointed’ with open data use

Michael Anderson said that he wants to see businesses, academics and journalists mining the data

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Prime Minister David Cameron’s special envoy on the UN’s post-2015 development goals has said that he is ‘disappointed’ by how much the government’s open datasets have been used so far.

Speaking at a Reform event in London this week on open government and data transparency, Anderson said he recognises that the public sector needs to improve the way it pushes out the data so that it is easier to use.

“I am going to be really honest with you. As an official in a government department that has worked really hard to get a lot of data out in the last two years, I have been pretty disappointed by how much it has been used,” he said.

The UK government is investing heavily in transparency, where minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, recently launched a white paper that detailed the government’s drive to release data into the public domain for analysis and re-use.

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.

Anderson said: “I’m sure that a big part of [how much it is being used] is the kind of way that we are delivering the data. I recognise that we need to get better data out in a usable form.

“We still publish things in PDF files, which is awful. But we are going to improve, and we all have to move on this together.”

Anderson called on businesses, academics and journalists to mine the data that has been put into the public domain so as to come up with better business models for how it can be used.

Maude also delivered a speech at the conference today, where he said that data and public sector transparency is both ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘awkward’ for government, but it shouldn’t turn back on it, as it drives innovation and growth. 

He said: “Advances in technology have made data the entitlement of many, not just the privileged. Data is the new resource, it’s the new raw material of the 21st Century. Its value exists in holding government to account and enabling informed choices to be made by citizens.”

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