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Transparency and Open data: Looking forward

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Government

As this is my first blog post on (indeed, my very first blog post anywhere, ever), I should probably start by introducing myself.  I’m Ollie Buckley, and since December last year, I’ve been leading the Transparency Team in the Cabinet Office.  Before that, I was focused on our international transparency work (in the context of the UK’s leadership of both the G8 and the Open Government Partnership in particular), so I’m not totally new to the agenda – but I’m also under no illusions about how much there’s still for me to learn.

2013 was an extraordinary year for transparency on both the domestic and international fronts, and we’re very proud of the achievements of that year.  G8 leaders signed up to an Open Data Charter, which is already spreading to countries beyond the G8; we completed our first iteration of the National Information Infrastructure (a world-first); published  a new UK OGP National Action Plan with 21 stretching commitments to transparency from across government;  and we hosted a successful OGP Annual Summit – with around 1,500 representatives from more than 80 countries over two days, including a smattering of heads of government, a lot of ministers and civil society leaders, and a live link up with John Kerry in the U.S.

In 2014 we’re determined to build on the momentum of last year - and while we may not have the G8 presidency or leadership of the OGP this time (“thank goodness”, some of the battle-scarred members of the team might say...), there’s huge scope for further progress.

As a team, we see three elements to our mission:

Getting high quality data out of government and into the public’s hands
Bringing the power of open data to a wider audience – including finding ways to encourage develops to create transformative applications
Maintaining Britain’s global position as a leader on open data and transparency

Within this framing, we’ve identified a number of areas where we think we can make some rapid progress over the months ahead:

1.Pushing on the next wave of Open Data:  by helping to facilitate and incentivise big new releases from local government; by looking to introduce standard transparency clauses into central government contracts; and, of course, by continuing to push for the release of priority datasets from central government – such as flood data, or the VAT register.

2.Developing the National Information Infrastructure: we’re looking at how we might move towards service level agreements between government and users of the top priority datasets contained in the NII to ensure timeliness of updates and the quality of data

3.Leveraging UK leadership internationally: we’re continuing to encourage wider adoption of the Open Data Charter beyond the G8;  playing an active role in the ongoing development of the OGP; and, separate to our work through the OGP,  building on strategic bilateral partnerships, and with international organisations.

Finally, we want to devote some more time and attention to getting the basics right: so we’re working with departments to address broken links on; we’re making improvements to the data requests process so that requests are dealt with faster and more effectively; and we’re taking a more structured and strategic approach to the funds available to support open data, for example by working to raise awareness of the Release of Data Fund, and designing a clear and rigorous approach for evaluating bids. This and other funds could see more than £7m released to support the release and use of open data – a huge potential opportunity to move the agenda forward.

Taken together I think these represent a very exciting set of opportunities for building on the momentum that was built during 2013- and we in the Transparency Team look forward to working with you to make these a reality over the year ahead.

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  1. Comment by dleate posted on

    Well a a good start maybe making the stolen car data available to the public free of charge, instead of allowing public data to be sold by companies profiteering from public funds used to obtain the data in the first place.

    this data was requested a year ago on your data request application, has this progressed?



  2. Comment by ryan1 posted on

    Here's one broken link:


    Unbelievably adding a simple flag for people to check and report seems to take months. Doesn't give me confidence in whoever makes your website. 🙁

  3. Comment by Guy Etchells posted on

    If the government is serious about transparency and open data they will release the Historic Birth, Marriage and Death registers from the GRO.

    It is ludicrous to expect people to take the initiative seriously when the government insist on keeping registers 100 to 177 years old as a cash cow.

    In 1914 a Royal Commission on Public Records appointed to inquire into and report on the state of the public records and local records of a public nature of England and Wales stated in their report-

    “We see no good reason in principle for forbidding searchers to take copies at their own risk. The existing restriction rests merely of financial grounds and we think that it should be removed.”

    The records used to be open to public inspection. From the start of civil registration the public could carry out searches in the registers of birth, marriage and death. In 1898 the then Registrar General took it upon himself to close the records held at the GRO even though there was no change in the law to allow for such unilateral action.

    Similarly in 1974 many local registrars closed the registers they held to public searches even though a public search of the registers was written in to the various applicable Acts of Parliament.

    If the public wish to see current Birth, Marriage and Death registers they may be viewed at the local registers office but Historic Registers are kept behind closed doors and may only be viewed at a cost of £10 per entry, so much for open data!

    The Royal Commission on Public Records (1914) agreed that it was the evident intention of the originating legislation in 1836 that the registers should be open.

    Master Arthur Francis Ridsdale, who served in the Chancery Division of the High Court from 1912 until his death in 1935 stated in evidence -“What one feels is that very often great injustice might be caused simply from parties not being able to get information which is in the registers and could be found if the solicitor could see them”.

    Sir Frederick Kenyon, the Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum remarked “The closing of the registers is calculated to defeat the cause of justice.”

    Registrar Generals over the last 100 years have been working towards it, so why are these registers still closed to public inspection.

    There is the will and the means in the private sector to enable the Historic BMDs to be made available online at no cost to the public purse, the licence fee they would be willing to pay would provide revenue for the government and would cover the reduction in revenue the GRO and /or Superintendent Registrars would lose by opening the registers in this manner.

    In addition the digitising and licensing of the registers in this manner would safeguard their future by providing numerous copies as back-ups in case of loss of the original registers through flood, fire and war etc, all of which have already caused loss of some registers.

    Guy Etchells

  4. Comment by deklaod1 posted on

    This dataset comprises of raw data collected from automatic lake monitoring buoys located in Cumbria, England on Esthwaite Water, Windermere South Basin, Blelham Tarn, Bassenthwaite Lake and on one shore station next to Esthwaite Water. Data provided here include air temperature, solar radiation, wind speed and lake temperatures (at different depths) collected from monitoring buoys carrying a range of meteorological instruments and in-lake temperature sensors. Note that the data downloadable here are raw data that have not yet been calibrated and quality controlled. Please contact us directly if you wish to use data from these buoys for scientific purposes. Note also that data from these buoys are being used in several current scientific studies including those of PhD students.

    • Replies to deklaod1>

      Comment by tomasdimitrov posted on


      I am conduciting a research on the way the government uses Big Data. I find this dataset as the most prominant way of levereging Big Data for public policy purposes. However, I need some technical information regardin the database. For instance, the size of the database (in bytes, GB, TB, PB, etc.) and the rate of collecting data (bytes, GB, TB, PB, etc. / per second). If you could help me with this, I would really appriciate it. 

      Thank you in advance!