UK government maintains open data lead – but progress slows

Open Data Barometer finds that the UK government is still top for releasing open data – but France, Canada and Mexico are snapping at its heels

By Colin Marrs

03 May 2016

Britain has maintained its position as the world’s top government for releasing open data, although the rate of progress has slowed.

The UK got a maximum possible score of 100 in this year’s Open Data Barometer, produced by the international Open Data for Development (OD4D) initiative. Most countries in the survey (55%) now have an open data initiative in place.

The report said: “Traditional open data stalwarts such as the USA and UK have seen their rate of progress on open data slow, signalling that new political will and momentum may be needed as more difficult elements of open data are tackled.

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“Fortunately, a new generation of open data adopters, including France, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, South Korea and the Philippines, are starting to challenge the ranking leaders and are adopting a leadership attitude in their respective regions.

“The International Open Data Charter could be an important vehicle to sustain and increase momentum in challenger countries, while also stimulating renewed energy in traditional open data leaders.”

The UK scored 100 – the maximum possible in three sub-categories of readiness, implementation and impact. The France and USA were ranked joint second overall with scores of 81.89 and 81.65 respectively.

Britain was one of only a handful of countries where the report found evidence of quality control processes before data is released.

Across the world, the report said that too much critical data remains locked in government filing cabinets.

Of all 1,380 government datasets surveyed, almost 90% are still closed, the report said.

The report also identified a new phenomenon of “open-washing”, where government advertise their open data policies to burnish their democratic credentials.

But the report said: “Open data initiatives cannot be effective if not supported by a culture of openness where citizens are encouraged to ask questions and engage, and supported by a legal framework. “Disturbingly, in this edition we saw a backslide on freedom of information, transparency, accountability, and privacy indicators in some countries.”

OD4D is a partnership funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the World Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), and Global Affairs Canada.

DfID's permanent secretary Mark Lowcock last month told CSW about the UK civil service's efforts to come up with a composite indicator to help judge the effectiveness of governments around the world, taking into account factors including transparency, innovation and the ability to ensure value for money.

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