5 December 2012

The British Government has delivered on another commitment to Open Government. Coinciding with an Open Government Partnership ministerial meeting in London, it has launched the Open Data Institute, to be led by the web inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The ODI aims to identify commercially valuable public data and support its reuse. The claim is that this new institute is a world first.

At the ministerial meeting – Britain is currently a co chair of OGP – three prominent advisers have been named to oversee the transparency plans of the member states; former Irish president Mary Robinson, British entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, and Graça Machel, a politician from Mozambique.

 The view of Rt Hon Francis Maud the UK Cabinet Office Minister intends “…to turn the rhetoric of transparency into practical effect. We want to firmly establish the OGP as a credible and sustainable force for change. During the year ahead, Britain will promote the OGP and highlight the advantages of openness in government. We know transparency helps root out corruption, exposes inefficiency, and highlights incompetence. Transparency drives prosperity because openness has the potential not just to sharpen accountability but to drive economic and social growth as well…”

Of the 58 OGP members, 46 have published commitments to making data available online. Many have a tough road ahead if they are to root out corruption, expose inefficiency, and highlight incompetence

 The latest Rule of Law survey data discloses an interesting irony about open government.  According to the World Justice Project data for the survey, the countries with the highest Open Government ratings are the Scandinavians, Denmark and the Netherlands together with New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.   Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada are party to the OGP but not Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan or Hong Kong. It does not appear as if these latter five are in any hurry to join, despite the cajoling of Britain and the United States.

Open and Shut, the Australian blog championing access to information, has bemoaned the Australian absence from OGP meeting. The reality may be that a number of the participants are not the kind with whom states with any option, would need to associate.

 The British Cabinet Secretary “did his thing” for open government overnight.  In an on line discussion, he explained the aspirations for the ODI, the way it will contribute to accessibility of useful and valuable data , how the taxpayer can benefit from the rediscovery of data, and how licence revenue can be derived from that information.