Tim Kelsey, Director of Transparency and Open Data from the UK Cabinet Office has just presented on the UK Action Plan at the OGP meeting in Brasilia.
Kelsey outlined that the UK Action Plan was published when the UK joined the steering committee of the OGP, but that the UK now plans to go through a process of refreshing the action plan, setting up a ‘large forum’ through which to engage with civil society. Tim explained the government have been thinking about ways in which to take in all the voices which have an interest in the UKs OGP participation, both focussed on the domestic activities and action plan, and on the UK role as co-chair of the OGP playing a global leadership role, can be engaged, explaining “we want to be transparent about how we engage”. This forum should be established during May.
The rest of the presentation focussed on the key drivers for the UK transparency agency. Tim noted that whilst accountability is an important driver, that “there are many people in the UK, inside our government, who don’t believe that transparency and open government is a good idea. Not because they are bad people, but because no-one has shown them how there are benefits to them”, and as a result the UK has focussed most effort on other drivers (I’ve paraphrased points made below):
Choice: choice is driven by data, and open data contributes to this agena. However, choice is ‘not a core driver at the moment’
Productivity: drawing on examples from hospitals, where open data helps people compare results with their peers. “We have to have more productive public services, else they won’t be there at all”
Outcomes: outcomes are distinct from productivity. Outcomes mean the service that is being provided is better than it was. Sometimes when you start with transparency, the result isnt productivity. You might realise a service is so bad that you either need to close it down, or spend more money on it.
Social growth: there are new opportunities to express out opinions online and to do e-petitions. Or there are possibilities when we have access to our own data and medical records. But we can’t build digital until we have the data to power it. This area of ‘social growth’ is an area of focus for the UK
Economic growth: the 21st Century could be witnessing the birth a new industrial opportunity around knowledge. Government should promote that for our entrepreneurs and innovators.
The respondent to the presentation was Rufus Pollock who focussed on the lack of core reference data in the current UK National Action Plan, which was one of the themes within the broader UK Civil Society assessment of the action plan which is accessible on this site.
In later discussion, Mark from DFID, standing in for Tim Kelsey who had left, discussed the dual commitments of the UK to national reforms, and to international leadership on EITI and IATI, and the importance of government departments having a joined-up approach to OGP. Mark also mentioned the importance of learning from other countries in terms of models of public participation and consultation around OGP National Action Plans.