Opinion
August 8, 2012

Delivering data we can use

Quote of the week

“It is simply not good enough to dump large quantities of raw data into the public domain.”

    — U.K. Report: Implementing the Transparency Agenda
 
Editor’s Corner

In the government’s Action Plan for Open Government, Ottawa commits to issuing both a new Directive on Open Government to provide guidance on what governments and agencies must do to maximize the availability of online information and data, and to reduce the administrative burden of managing multiple licensing regimes across the Government of Canada.

Whatever one may think of progress made, there are some lessons to consider from the U.K. Commons Public Accounts Committee report, Implementing the Transparency Agenda, released on August 1.

A main message from the document is that data “must be accessible, relevant and easy for us all to understand.”

The report recognizes that there is one main reason for posting data: to provide information to citizens and taxpayers about money being spent.

It therefore makes the key point that if the information isn’t clear, the public can’t use it to “make comparisons and exercise choice.” In other words, it isn’t enough for governments to dump information onto a website; it has to be well presented and easy to interpret.

The report also raises an issue that is of importance in a world of increasing partnerships and collaboration by government.

It expresses some concerns about the fact that some private sector partners are hiding behind “commercial confidentiality” are therefore not operating on the same playing field as the public sector. The report argues that this matters when these sectors are providing services on behalf of government to citizens.

So, while the report is all about the U.K., some of its lessons should be of interest to Canadians. It can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubacc/102/10202.htm.

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