Government needs ‘firmer grip’ on measuring success of open data, says watchdog - 18 Apr 2012 - Computing News 2012-08-20


“The government needs a ‘firmer grip' on measuring the success of open data policies, according to a report on public access to information by the National Audit Office (NAO). The report focuses on how the government is fulfilling its commitment to promote the transparency of public information. In its findings, the NAO said that few departments are tracking the benefits of transparency. It used the example of the website which has had an increase in data sets of over 5,000 from January 2010 to December 2011 and more than 1.75 million visits since its launch two years ago. However, the report said that more than 80 per cent of its visitors leave the home page or the data page on the website soon after visiting. This suggests that they are not accessing data during their visit, but does not take into account other potential access points for the data, such as third-party websites or applications, making it unclear how beneficial open data is on the website. The report explained that the government estimated that public data currently contributes £16bn annually to the UK economy and academic research suggests that making all public information that is currently traded available for free, such as the Met Office and Ordnance Survey, could add economic value of up to £6bn a year. However, the NAO warned that the government's ability to maximise economic growth from traded data is constrained by current charging and licensing arrangements, as well as limited understanding of the potential benefits. Another concern of the NAO's is that the majority of departments and the Cabinet Office itself had not routinely collected data to monitor the costs of implementing transparency. It suggested that the government had assumed that the standard release required of all departments incurred little to no costs because they are releasing information that is already held. In contrast, eight departments provided estimates that staff costs, which departments noted was the biggest cost associated with preparing and publishing the standard transparency requirements in 2011-12, ranged from £53,000 to £500,000. The figures did not include the costs of upgrading IT systems or payments to contractors, and although they were relatively low, the NAO emphasised that they were incurred in administrative functions in which cuts are currently taking place. In its recommendations to the government, the NAO said that there should be an evaluative framework for measuring success and value for money of transparency initiatives, by developing a better understanding of implementation costs, and evaluating the emerging effects of transparent data to focus on important activities with ‘unintended consequences mitigated’. ‘The strategic case for greater transparency is strong. If it is to do more than satisfy public rights to public information, however, and contribute fully to objectives set for it, including accountability, service improvement and growth, then the government needs a firmer grip on measuring the success of the initiative,’ the report said. ‘While it has begun to gather evidence of usage and benefits arising from the use of open data, it has not yet positioned this within a wider, systematic evaluative framework. Evidence on benefits should be considered alongside information on costs and risks to secure best value from the large stock of public data, match the range and presentation of data purposefully to fulfil specific objectives, ensure that risks are identified and mitigated, and secure value for money,’ it added.”



08/16/2012, 06:08

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Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.psi oa.licensing oa.comment oa.government oa.metrics oa.usage oa.costs oa.reports oa.fees oa.recommendations oa.benefits oa.nuo oa.libre



Date tagged:

08/20/2012, 18:14

Date published:

04/19/2012, 15:59