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UK Open Government Action Plan Consultation

The UK Open Government Civil Society Network is collecting ideas from anyone committed to the values of transparency, citizen participation and accountability, for reforms the UK Government should commit to in its 2018-2020 Open Government Action Plan.

Starting: 11 Dec Ending

0 days left (ends 06 Apr)

What would you do to make government in the UK more open and accountable?  Submit your idea now!  

description

What is Open Government?

Open government is the simple but powerful idea that governments work better for citizens when they are transparent, participatory and accountable.

Open government reforms can transform the way government and public services work, ensuring that they are properly responsive to citizens, and helping deliver better outcomes for society. Good health and wellbeing, quality education, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities - open government is critical to achieving all of these outcomes and more.

What are we doing?

The UK Open Government Network is collecting ideas for reforms the UK Government should commit to in its 2018-2020 Open Government Action Plan from citizens, community groups, civil society organisations, and anyone else committed to the values of transparency, citizen participation and accountability (in other words, you!).

The strongest ideas will have a clear explanation of what is being proposed and why. Please consider structuring your idea according to these three questions:

  1. What is your idea? - Brief summary of the idea
  2. Why is it important? - Explanation of what problem the idea would help solve (including any evidence)
  3. How would it work? - Explanation of how the idea would work in practice

At the end of this crowdsourcing phase, the Open Government Network will prioritise and develop the best ideas into a set of proposals to present to the government and advocate for.

Join the Open Government Network to help prioritise and campaign for the ideas!

Submit your idea!

LATEST ACTIVITY

STATISTICS

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  • Under review: 0
  • Under evaluation: 0
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Status: Closed
Privacy: Public
The UK Open Government Network (OGN) is a coalition of active citizens and civil society organisations committed to making government work better for people through increased transparency, participation and accountability.

CONTRIBUTORS (31)

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Author: andreas@involve.org.uk Date: 26 February 2018

This ideas was developed by participants in the Manchester and Leeds workshops.

What is the idea?

-> Local government meetings must be accessible and open

Why is it important?

Currently, local government meetings (Manchester Combined Authority) are held in secret/behind closed doors, so it is not possible to follow discussion or decision making. Meetings could be livestreamed. Meetings where decisions are made, should be open for the public and media to follow. Full transparency of those discussions. Meetings should be made accessible for the public - language, various channels of communication, proximity/geography of meetings to communities. Should increase use of technology.

Category: Local government
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Author: andreas@involve.org.uk Date: 26 February 2018

This idea was developed by participants in the Bristol workshop.

What is the idea?

Secure the publication of a register of all research being commissioned (internally or externally) by local/national government

Why is it important?

Reduce overlap, let the public decide what is valuable, hold the administration to account for research commissioned, and to it’s (in)action.

Category: Access to information
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Author: andreas@involve.org.uk Date: 26 February 2018

This idea was developed by participants in the Leeds workshop

What is the idea?

-> Consultation feedback mechanism
-> Policy decisions must feature consultation (which enable informed contributions) and feedback

Why is it important?

People need to know exactly how their participation in consultation processes are valued. People should be given the context and clear information that can enable an informed contribution to consultations which are then of greater value to decision makers. Demonstrable evidence that local government have worked with local communities, business and citizens in decision making.

Category: Citizen participation
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Author: andreas@involve.org.uk Date: 26 February 2018

This idea was developed by participants in the Sheffield workshop.

What is the idea?

-> Community cohesion plans organised by local community/ies

Enable people to own the agenda and the issues that affect them. They need to be meaningfully engaged and given the tools that can empower them so that they can participate and solve problems that affect them (in a bottom-up approach rather than top-down).

Why is it important?

Need to avoid top-down problem-solving of community problems, and instead instigate a system where local communities are empowered.

A critical requirement to ensure joined-up thinking and reduce wasting valuable time of volunteers.

Category: Citizen participation
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Author: andreas@involve.org.uk Date: 26 February 2018

This idea was developed by participants in the Birmingham and Bristol workshops.

What is the idea?

- Develop and enforce an Open Source standard for local and national government
- Produce an Open Source Civic Stack (a mechanism to check what already exists)
- Develop civic commons licensing framework

Why is it important?

To reduce the duplication of costs for softwares and systems that already exist in other areas of government. There should be a requirement that no new procurement is carried out if appropriate softwares/solutions already exist and are in use by government. New focus on Open Source softwares in order to reduce proprietary control over softwares used by government. This is particularly related to procurement of services and softwares by government.

Background info

Current Gov Open Standards policy: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/open-standards-for-government-data-and-technology

Current Open Source guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/be-open-and-use-open-source

See 'Public Money, Public Code' campaign here, presenting the case for open source: https://publiccode.eu/ - this is current and active

Category: Open data
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Increase the transparency of surveillance activities to improve accountability and secure public trust.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

At all levels of government, surveillance tools are used without giving the public adequate information about the surveillance in place, the benefits it brings, and the rights of citizens with respect to it.

Main Objective

  • Establishing principles for transparency when national security agencies, police forces, local authorities and other government bodies use surveillance tools;

  • Promoting clear principles for both public and private sector transparency with respect to any activities that surveil, track and profile citizens (e.g. use of CCTV, online tracking, facial recognition tools);

  • Increasing the open reporting of national security surveillance activity whenever doing so would not threaten ongoing operations;

  • Re-examine the use of secret courts and proceedings, with a public debate about the balance of risks to safety, and risks to democratic freedoms, that these create;

  • Improve the independent scrutiny of those aspects of the secret state which cannot be made transparent;

Relevance

The UK is one of the most CCTV surveilled countries in the world. The surveillance commissioner has recently argued that we need greater transparency about the use of CCTV, including body worn CCTV cameras.

Edward Snowden's revelations have shown the extent of mass-surveillance by the UK Government and it's allies.

Secret courts processing surveillance gathered materials threaten to undermine basic principles of open justice.

At the London Open Government Partnership Summit in 2013, Aruna Roy put the issue of Surveillance on the agenda with questions to William Hague and John Kerry: highlighting the need for us to not bracket out 'issues of national security', but to think about how surveillance also need to be critically examined within the open government landscape.

Open government and democratic freedoms are threatened by the inbalance of power brought about by the widespread deployment of surveillance technologies. The OGP needs to address these issues, and a space is needed for a positive, constructive dialogue about getting a better line drawn between between secrecy for security, and transparency for accountability.

Ambition

A commitment to debate and action on sensitively applying principles of openness to surveillance at all levels of government will directly address one of the most important countervailing pressures against openness in our state.

It will help to set the right boundaries between openness and secrecy, recognising that legitimate surveillance functions better when citizens have trust in the systems, and demonstrating the applicability of openness to this sector.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Provide all citizens with a report on how their individual level data has been used by government services.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

No citizen currently knows how Government has used their data.

Main Objective

When a citizen requests, for the services requested by a citizen, Digital Services should provide the citizen with a report on how their individual level data has been used by those services. All uses and flows of a citizen’s individual level data within and out of a department/body should be securely and sensitively collated, and made available to a citizen in a secure and confidential digital manner.

Implementation details are important, to avoid this becoming a dossier on citizens:

https://medconfidential.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/gov-data-usage-report-april-2015.pdf

https://medconfidential.org/2014/what-is-a-data-usage-report/

Every citizen should be able to see an individual “data bank statement” of how/where Government has used their record and why.

If you don’t know where your data has gone, there’s no way to know whether your wishes are being respected. And when there is a problem, there’s no way to know whether you were personally affected.

To assuage concerns, citizens must be able to understand precisely where their data has gone, and why, through citizen centric data usage reports. This will give the citizen the tools to understand/question inappropriate flows, and Government the ability to communicate directly with a citizen when there is a data incident that may, or more likely may not, impact them.

Relevance

While Data Release Registers provide necessary insight into where some data flows within Government, and are a large step to solving the problem, they do not provide an individual with any detail on whether their data was included in any item in the register.

“Bulk Personal Datasets” have been defined by Parliament as “large databases containing personal information about a wide range of people”. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee in its 2015 report, ‘Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework‘, also concluded that as a Dataset of this type “may be highly intrusive and impacts upon large numbers of people, it is essential that it is tightly regulated”. Currently, the existence of such datasets is highly opaque.

When data incidents occur, and they will continue to do so, there is no simple message that can be given to citizens about what happened, and what they should do about it, that is individualised to them.

Ambition

Over time, no citizen’s data should be used by Government without them being able to understand why.

Category: Citizen rights
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Provide a complete Data Release Register, listing all data flows of individual level in/between departments and other public bodies and why, readable by the public.  

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

There is no transparency on how and where Departments share individual level data as part of sharing of bulk personal datasets.

Main Objective

Provide a complete Data Release Register, listing all data flows of individual level in/between departments and other public bodies, readable by the public.

While initial Registers will be incomplete, due to Departments themselves not being aware of all data flows (some are annual or less often), the Register should be a complete-as-known list.

Departments currently have an unknown number and range of “bulk personal datasets” covering individuals, and share them in ways which are opaque to both the department, other departments, and the public.

Moving towards a comprehensive register of all bulk personal datasets, and the flows thereof,  is a necessary prerequisite to understanding those flows, and raising public confidence in their use.

Relevance

In meetings, civil servants often complain that the public think that Departments/projects (should) share data far more than they actually do. Irrespective of the accuracy of that position, the civil service has demonstrated a fundamental gap in the evidence base for a public debate:

How does Government share data between bodies/departments, and on what basis?

Absent a comprehensive list, the debate on data sharing will be characterised by “trust us” from Government, scepticism from the public, and an increasing data trust deficit ever made worse by Government mistakes. Comprehensive and complete data release registers will begin to provide a knowledge base which can be read and the situation known, rather than bureaucratic weasel words which require trust that is routinely broken. Over time, Departments should assure completeness for stated time periods, and for any new flows to be added.  The HSCIC already regularly publishes such a register for flows of individual level medical records.

The Open/Data community can then build tools on top of such registers for notification/analysis purposes, such as the Data Disclosure Standard.

Ambition

It is widely accepted that “data sharing” will rise in importance and volume.

Following the care.data fiasco in the Department of Health and NHS England, the HSCIC has for over a year published a “data release register” of what data leaves the organisation, where it goes, and why.

Every Department should follow their lead, and publish such a register.

Category: Citizen rights
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Open data of the daily case flow schedule and outcomes of their courts and tribunals

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Courts are the basis of justice, and justice must be seen to be done. The current court process is opaque.

Main Objective

The UK judiciary, magistracy and courts and tribunal service should make available as open data the daily case flow schedule and outcomes of their courts and tribunals. This would greatly increase transparency of the courts for the general public whom they serve.  

It has been an established principle since the 17th Century that the courts should be open except in special circumstances but 19th Century working practices in fact make them highly opaque. Publication will also improve the efficiency of the courts in the delivery and administration of justice - where poor information is well understood to contribute to inefficiency and poor outcomes.

Data about the justice system has some special attributes not found in other areas, such as issues around contempt of court where reporting restrictions apply or juveniles are involved, or the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and its concept of 'spent offences'.  However, these issues could easily be handled in a system that operates with a set of internal data standards - very similar to the way in which a public internet and a private secure intranet work on the same open data standards, but one is published and one is held securely.

Relevance

Justice being seen to be done is the foundation of democracy and the power of the state. The UK's rankings in the openness assessments are extremely poor.

Ambition

The count process is transparent to citizens and supported by good information.

Category: Open courts
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Formally adopt The Declaration of Parliamentary Openness.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Enshrining openness at the heart of our parliaments.

Main Objective

The UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly should formally adopt The Declaration of Parliamentary Openness.

This sets out 44 principles for advancing parliamentary openness, grouped under four headings:

Promoting a Culture of Openness:
Parliamentary information belongs to the public. Parliamentary information shall be able to be reused or republished by citizens with any limited restrictions narrowly defined by law. To enable a culture of parliamentary openness, parliament must enact measures to ensure inclusive citizen participation and a free civil society, enable effective parliamentary monitoring, and vigorously protect these rights through its oversight role. Parliament shall also ensure that citizens have legal recourse to enforce their right to access parliamentary information. Parliament has an affirmative duty to promote citizen understanding of parliamentary functioning and share good practices with other parliaments to increase openness and transparency. Parliament shall work collaboratively with PMOs and citizens to ensure that parliamentary information is complete, accurate, and timely.

Making Parliamentary Information Transparent:
Parliament shall adopt policies that ensure proactive publication of parliamentary information, and shall review these policies periodically to take advantage of evolving good practices. Parliamentary information includes information about parliament’s roles and functions, and information generated throughout the legislative process, including the text of introduced legislation and amendments, votes, the parliamentary agenda and schedule, records of plenary and committee proceedings, historical information, and all other information that forms a part of the parliamentary record, such as reports created for or by parliament. Parliament shall provide information on the management and administration of parliament, parliamentary staff, and comprehensive and detailed parliamentary budget information. Parliament shall provide information about the backgrounds, activities and affairs of members, including sufficient information for citizens to make informed judgments regarding their integrity and probity, and potential conflicts of interest. 

Easing Access to Parliamentary Information:
Parliament shall ensure that information is broadly accessible to all citizens on a non-discriminatory basis through multiple channels, including first-person observation, print media, radio, and live and on-demand broadcasts and streaming. Physical access to parliament shall be provided to all citizens, subject to space and safety limitations, with clearly defined and publicly available policies for ensuring access by media and observers. Parliamentary information must also be available free of charge, in multiple national and working languages, and through tools, such as plain language summaries, that help ensure that parliamentary information is understandable to a broad range of citizens. 

Enabling Electronic Communication of Parliamentary Information:
Parliamentary information shall be released online in open and structured formats that allow citizens to analyze and reuse this information using the full range of technology tools. Parliamentary information shall be linked to related information and be easily searchable, as well as downloadable in bulk to encourage the development of new technologies for its exploration. Parliamentary websites enable communication with citizens even in societies with limited Internet penetration, by facilitating information access to intermediaries, which can further disseminate the information to citizens. Parliamentary websites shall seek to use interactive tools to engage citizens and offer alert or mobile services. Parliament shall give preference to the use of non-proprietary formats, and free and open-source software. Parliament has a duty to ensure technological usability of parliamentary information, while guaranteeing the privacy for those accessing the information.

Relevance

Signing the declaration is a commitment to openness and transparency and therefore is a way to hold the parliament to account for its actions (or non-actions)

Ambition

The Declaration is only a document but recognising the commitments within are important for driving a cultural change within legislatures are they move towards being more open and focussed on serving the wider public as well as members.

Category: Open parliament
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Open up parliament so more people can contribute.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Bring citizens closer to the parliamentary process

Main Objective

The parliaments and assemblies of the UK should be encouraged to experiment with new ways that enable the public to contribute to the different stages of the parliamentary process. This would range from putting questions to ministers, addressing and commenting on committees and within the pre-legislative, legislative cycles and during post-legislative scrutiny. This can include further opportunities for remote hearings and public access to committees and debates and also the the use of digital tools to make parliament more accessible to the public who would otherwise find it difficult to physically attend.

Relevance

Those who take part in the parliamentary process shape the future, but all too often this is a narrow subset of the population and unrepresentative of the wider population. Digital tools allows our legislatures to step out beyond the chamber or committee room in new ways, whether it’s taking the parliament out to the people or allowing people to come to parliament through new digital channels, this is about strengthening democratic participation and rebuilding trust as much as it is about enhancing public accountability.

Ambition

More people will be able to contribute to what happens in their parliament, this helps legislations better reflect people’s lives and makes parliaments more transparent and accessible.

Category: Open parliament
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

All parliamentary data to be freely available for the public to download and/or re-use.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Parliamentary data is inconsistently available or not available at all.

Main Objective

The UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly should make their data freely available and openly accessible to the public so that the public can download, re-use and re-share. This includes all documents, data, audio and video content.

No material should have its usage restricted through any unreasonable copyright restrictions and it is expected that at most the constraints would be Parliamentary Copyright (which allows for sharing and re-use).

Relevance

This addresses issues of civic participation and public accountability.

Category: Open parliament
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Include local governance and engagement frameworks as part of devolution deals.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Devolution will have a significant impact on the lives of people throughout England, initially in combined authority areas and as devolution arrangements spread wider. They present significant governance and scrutiny challenges and opportunities. The speed of devolution, among other factors, means not all authorities are sufficiently considering how to engage the public and overcome these challenges.

Main Objective

The objective is for Government to develop a framework to support applicant councils and nascent combined authorities to think through the governance and public engagement and involvement challenges presented by devolution. Formed of key questions councils and combined authorities need to address, satisfactory completion of the framework document - and thereby demonstration of plans to overcome the relevant challenges - would be a condition of a devolution deal.  The framework would not be prescriptive about how each area should tackle each challenge, leaving each council and combined authority to develop solutions appropriate to their specific situation.

The framework document could cover areas from public involvement, to policy development and performance (how policy would be developed by a combined authority, how performance would be monitored, and how non-executives could be involved in these processes), partnership working, and the structures and resources to support these systems and arrangements.

Relevance

This commitment advances transparency, accountability and involvement by ensuring these values are considered and prioritised by local authorities as part of devolution deals, by providing a framework for local authorities to work through.

Ambition

The impact of this commitment is to ensure local authorities consider and prioritise transparency, accountability and involvement as part of devolution deals, by providing a framework for local authorities to work through.

Category: Open local government
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Work with local authorities and civil society to scope out and develop an local open government partnership.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Local government has always played an important role in UK democracy and public service provision, and that role is only becoming more important as greater powers are being devolved from central to local government. Local government is therefore an increasingly important focus for open government reform.

Pockets of good open government practice already exist across the country, but they are scattered and often restricted to specific projects or small teams and departments. There is currently no mechanism or incentive for spreading existing or supporting new innovations in openness in local government.

By adopting an Open Government Partnership model, open government practice can be developed and spread across local government.

Main Objective

The features and principles of the Open Government Partnership can be adapted and applied to local government in the UK, to help develop and spread open government practice and tackle the challenges being faced by local governments and communities.

An Open Local Government Partnership would need to be developed in collaboration by a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities, national government, civil society organisations and citizens. Its features could include:

  • Open and inclusive - The project could start by identifying a number of local authorities already interested in and/or making progress on aspects of open government, but it would be open to any local authority to join on the condition that they agree to a high level statement and commit to developing their own open government action plan. As such, the membership of the partnership would grow organically over time.

  • Peer support - The partnership would work on the basis that there is already distributed practice of open government in local government, with organisations excelling in different areas. Some work could be conducted up front to scope out the different aspects of openness for local government to develop a number of illustrative commitments and collect together useful resources and examples. However, the focus of the partnership would be on the sharing of practice between members - building up an ever more detailed picture of what open government can mean for local government.

  • Race to the top - The partnership would seek to instigate a race-to-the-top whereby local public organisations would compete with one another to be more “open”. Local authorities would be encouraged to sign up to commitments already pioneered by others, but also to develop new stretching commitments that set them apart from the rest.

  • High level cover for reformers - The Open Local Government Partnership would become something that politicians and senior officials want their organisation to be associated with,  providing high level buy-in for reformers within those organisations to implement open government reforms.

  • Involves public organisations, civil society and SMEs - The partnership could be governed at a national level by representatives from participating local authorities, civil society and SMEs. Members would be required to develop and agree their commitments in partnership with local civil society and SMEs, and include them in the assessment of their progress.

  • Independent and non-partisan - The partnership sould be managed by organisations independent from national government and any political party. Local councils invited to pioneer the project will be selected to include a spread across the main political parties.

For an open local government partnership to be adopted and be effective, it needs to be established and owned by local authorities. The open local government partnership idea is not prescriptive and the shape it might take is dependant on the aims and aspirations of the participating local authorities.

National government would:

  1. Support the initial scoping and development of the idea by helping to convene relevant stakeholders

  2. Develop links with the Open Government Partnership community and other relevant sub-national OGP initiatives

  3. Showcase innovative developments under the umbrella of the UK’s membership of the OGP.

Relevance

This commitment furthers OGP values by extending the principles and process underlying the OGP to local government. It is particularly relevant at a time when the OGP is grappling with how best to involve sub-national governments.

This initiative would mark a significant innovation in the OGP that could be adapted and adopted by other member countries.

Ambition

An Open Local Government Partnership would become a catalyst for increasing the openness, transparency, responsiveness and accountability of local government in the UK. It would develop a network of local authorities and reformers committed to the principles of open government, supporting them to develop, commit to & share actions designed to make local government more open. It would become recognised as a kitemark for good government and spread the principles and practice of open government across local government.

Category: Open local government
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Ensure a holistic approach to the management of government information of all kinds so as to facilitate openness now and in the future.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Accountability requires access to information with integrity. Technical standards for information integrity exist, but must be applied consistently across government if openness initiatives are to be meaningful. In an increasingly digital environment, information integrity entails capturing and managing information from creation onwards, through interoperable systems and mechanisms. More needs to be done to develop an information management environment within government that enables information integrity and openness.

Main Objective

The main objective of this commitment is to strengthen government’s ability to establish and preserve the integrity of public sector information, so that it can be opened and trusted. Actions should include:

1. Enacting a new Public Records Act that would empower TNA to lead on information management.

The National Archives (TNA) should be a leader in developing, co-ordinating and implementing the necessary standards, systems and mechanisms, but the Public Records Act does not sufficiently empower TNA. Some of the recommendations of the 2014 records management review conducted by Sir Alex Allan highlight TNA’s inability to enforce compliance, under current legislation. In comparison, Scottish legislation of 2011 gives National Records of Scotland the sort of powers TNA needs. This will need to be addressed if TNA is to support good practice in the creation and management over time of records and data to deliver high quality information with integrity and reliability.

2. Delivering on commitments to address deficiencies in the management of public sector records.

The 2014 review of government records management by Sir Alex Allan resulted in recommendations that TNA has publicly committed to act on. The OGP National Action Plan should be used to reaffirm TNA’s commitment, and to encompass commitments resulting from the digital records management review Sir Alex is currently undertaking.

3. Identifying a strategy for introducing into open data initiatives the technical knowledge developed in the records management, data science, and digital preservation communities, to strengthen information integrity in support of meaningful openness.

As an example on one initiative: the Scottish Government’s Data Strategy for public sector information is governed by the ‘Data Linkage Framework’, which requires government departments and agencies to acknowledge the importance of data quality in facilitating the use of data to maximize its value.  The aim is to strengthen data, for instance in terms of accuracy and the level of disaggregation required. Operating within this Framework, the Data Sharing and Linkage Service is being delivered through collaboration between NHS National Services Scotland and National Records of Scotland.  

4. Ensuring the infrastructure is in place to enable government information to be, and remain, accessible and usable.

This should involve further developing or extending the TNA’s Digital Records Infrastructure (DRI), developing a transparent process by which decisions can be made about the present and future value of data, particularly as open data, to inform decisions on investment in their sustainability, and maintaining a cost-effective, holistic preservation strategy that includes datasets and other information published online (particularly reviewing the Web Archives’ frequency of captures to improve government accountability for the datasets it releases, and its functionality, considering enabling users to ‘watch’ pages and to be notified of changes).

Relevance

This commitment extends Commitment 5 in the UK Government's 2013 National Action Plan. That commitment is important because it recognised that records management is an essential underpinning of open government. This continues to be important. An holistic approach to effective management of all types of government information, including records and data, is particularly important in a financial environment that is challenging for public bodies. Commitment 5 supported OGP Grand Challenges 2, 3 and 5, but we believe it can and should also support Grand Challenges 1 and 4. Furthermore, the UK IRM’s progress report for 2014/15 stated: ‘The IRM researcher would emphasize the importance of records preservation and management for the wider open data agenda. Future plans should ensure that the issue remains a central part—particularly awareness of problems raised by hybrid and digital records’.

Ambition

The ambition of this commitment is to establish an environment that ensures information integrity, so that information can be searched, retrieved and released efficiently with assurance that it is reliable and authentic.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

The Freedom of Information Act should be protected and its scope widened to achieve comprehensive coverage of public sector bodies and the companies they own or control.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Freedom of Information is the foundation stone of open government which allows citizens to ask questions, and receive information, on the issues that matter to them. However, Freedom of Information does not currently apply to all public bodies, and often important information is inaccessible from bodies providing public services on the behalf of government.

Contractors providing public services are not themselves subject to the FOI Act. However, the FOI right does apply to information which a contractor holds on behalf of an authority. Deciding what information is held on the authority’s behalf is not easy and depends on what the contract itself says. This varies from contract to contract.  Often, important information is considered to be held for the contractor’s purposes, not the authority’s, and is therefore inaccessible under FOI.

Main Objective

Where a service is provided on behalf of a public authority by another body, or is otherwise  supported by public funds, information about the quality of the service and way in which it is provided should be available under FOI.

The Freedom of Information Act should be extended to all public bodies, unless powerful reasons for excluding a body are found during public consultation.

Relevance

Freedom of Information is the cornerstone of open government, as it allows citizens to request information about issues that are relevant to them.

Ambition

To achieve comprehensive FOI coverage of public authorities and bodies providing public services on their behalf.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Introduce an evidence transparency standard that shows how government has considered evidence in policy formulation and evaluation

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Citizens are unable to access the evidence behind government policy formulation and evaluation. If government is to be held properly to account for its decisions and actions, citizens need to be able to understand the way government has used evidence in making its decision and be able to access it readily.

Main Objective

Government should publish the data and evidence that underpin any new policies it announces, and should also commit to regular and long term evaluation of policies. As a first step, government departments and agencies should commit to an “evidence transparency standard” to “show the workings” behind government policy and decisions in a way that is easy for any interested citizen to access.  This should include a commitment to reference published data that underpin policy and decisions, in accordance with the principle of equal access to statistics and underlying analysis.

The standard would break down into five key components, which follow a chain of reasoning from diagnosis to hypothesis to implementation to evaluation :

  • Why does the government think action is necessary (its diagnosis of the issue)

  • Why the government has chosen a specific intervention  (the what question)

  • Why the government has chosen a specific way of delivering the intervention (the how question)

  • Why the government thinks this is worth doing (the value for money question)

  • How the government proposes to tell whether its working (the testing and evaluation question)

Relevance

Citizens deserve to know the basis on which government is making the decisions that affect them. Making policy when resources are tight is difficult but this only makes it more important that policy makers are open about how they have taken into account the probable quantified consequences of alternatives. When we lack the data to inform choices between options in important policy areas, the government should invest in getting it.

Ambition

Open government should rely upon good quality data and statistics, and the first step in ensuring the public can judge the quality of evidence behind policy is to ensure citizens can access that evidence. An evidence transparency standard would allow citizens to judge the extent to which policies and evaluations are informed by evidence.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Each government department and agency should provide a single point of contact for public requests for evidence related to departmental policy.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Government departments and agencies do not provide a clearly identified contact that the public can request evidence from.

Main Objective

Each government department and agency will provide a single point of contact for public requests for evidence related to the department’s policy.

A nominated individual in each department and agency will have responsibility for the contact point. At a minimum this will be a dedicated email address prominently advertised online and in communications.

This individual will monitor public requests for evidence; identify and collect appropriate information; respond to public requests promptly; and keep a public record of public requests received including the progress of ongoing requests.

Relevance

A single point of contact and an ongoing invitation for people to use it will increase civic participation. People sending a request to government for evidence underlying public policy, and getting an answer, is beneficial to public understanding. It will increase the public’s access to information. It will mean the public will be less prone to misunderstanding on issues such as vaccination, agricultural policies and screening programmes.

Institutionalising responding to public requests will be a sign that government accepts its accountability to people, as in the 1980s companies accepted accountability to consumers by introducing dedicated phone lines and addresses for customer services and as public bodies accept their responsibility to properly look after public data by providing a point of contact for enquiries under the Data Protection Act 1998 for example.services, and when public bodies accepted their responsibility to properly look after public data by providing a point of contact for enquiries under the Data Protection Act 1998 for example.

Ambition

A single point of contact for requests for evidence used to shape public policies answers the government’s commitment to empower and transform the relationship between citizens and governments, as set out in the UK National Action Plan 2013 – 2015. It also answers the government’s commitment to public engagement in policy making.

An open and ongoing invitation to people to ask the Government for its evidence will make government more open and will improve the relationship between citizens and the government. Obfuscation and delays in implementing easy ways for the public to engage in policy making until now has put departments in a bad light. An open invitation and a direct, clear route for citizen’s questions will address this.

An institutionalised single point of contact will reduce time delays. There will be no need for people to engage the Freedom of Information Act request process. A dedicated individual in place will reduce the passing around of public enquiries within and between departments to try to find someone to answer that frustrates people now. This will save government time and money too and enable government to provide other relevant resources and information that helps people to focus and refine future requests.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

Ensure the open and timely publication of government research, through a standardised public register of all commissioned studies.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

The public cannot easily see whether research conducted or commissioned by government has been published.

Main Objective

Every government department and arms-length public body should publish a standardised record of all research it carries out, whether conducted by civil servants or commissioned through independent academic experts. The record would include what the research is looking at, who is conducting the study, and any agreements around the publication of results.

Relevance

Government conducts a large amount of research, either directly through the civil service and arms-length public bodies, or through independent academic experts it commissions. There have been high-profile examples where such research was delayed, modified, and misrepresented – or dropped altogether – apparently because the results were politically inconvenient. Recent examples include research looking at the rising use of food banks, international comparisons of drugs policy, and the effect of immigration on the jobs market, but researchers have come forward with numerous cases under previous governments.

This non-publication happens even though there are numerous codes of practice and guidelines in place requiring the prompt release of all government social research. Where this happens it undermines public scrutiny of government policy. Because government points to research to justify policy, there should be a presumption of open publication so that citizens can look at what they’re being asked to accord authority to. And if taxpayers pay for research, they’re entitled to know the results and what the quality of the study was. The impression that challenging results will be delayed or suppressed risks damaging the trust between government and researchers.

Currently it is not possible to assess the scale or significance of the non-publication of government research, as departments aren’t required to hold or publish records of what research is being carried out, by whom, and any agreements around publication of results. Such a record would make it easier to hold government to account, allowing public scrutiny of cases where studies are delayed or suppressed.

Ambition

A standardised record of all government research would empower the public to scrutinise what research is being carried out, by whom, and what the results were. This transparency would make government more open, and help improve the trust between researchers and policymakers by making it harder for studies to be delayed or suppressed for political reasons.

Category: Access to information
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Author: Open Government Network Date: 15 October 2017

This idea was originally developed by civil society for the 2016-18 Open Government Action Plan, but did not result in a government commitment. It is being resubmitted for consideration for the 2018-2020 action plan.

As it also relates closely to newer ideas on open contracting (ideas 31 and 33), these will be considered all together.

Increase the opportunities for citizens to be involved in planning, tender and oversight processes

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed

Open Contracting principles call for citizens to be engaged in all stages of the contracting process, including design, planning and review.

Yet, there are few structured opportunities in the UK for citizens to participate: either in the planning for procurement, or in assessing whether goods and services delivered were of a high enough quality.

Main Objective

  • Increase the opportunities for citizens to be involved in planning, tender and oversight processes - at both national and local level;

  • Pilot digital tools that support citizens to engage in the planning, delivery and evaluation stages of contracting;

  • Ensure there is a preferential option for those living in poverty and marginalised groups, so that public expenditure stimulates skills and entrepreneurship amongst these groups.

This may include creating visualisation and user-input tools that help citizens to discover aspects of the contracting pipeline relevant to them, and to provide their input and feedback on proposals, including those that will work for people who live in poverty and marginalised groups. Right now, the Contracts Finder platform is oriented solely towards suppliers: yet citizens often have key expertise on identifying precisely what the demands are in each local context as it changes over time, how to get the best value for money, and deliver the best services, for a planned procurement. Developing interfaces that can alert citizens to planned contracts affecting their local area, or their subject areas of interest, and then tools that help solicit input from citizens, could offer an important way to crowdsource insights and experiences.

Similarly, at the implementation stage of contracting, citizens have a key role to play in oversight. Creating visualisations that can indicate contract performance (drawing on information provided as part of the common baseline in Commitment 2) and that invite feedback from the beneficiaries of contracts, opens up a further space to ensure contracted out public services are delivering effectively.

Relevance

Participation is a central theme of Open Government, and contracting is a central way in which public services are now delivered.

Increasing openness, including transparency and participation, in contracting ensures greater accountability for public funds, and opens up opportunities for greater citizen control over those services.

Better oversight of contracting information allows government to understand its supply chain better, driving more efficient procurement and use of public resources, and reducing government exposure to supply chain risks.

Ambition

The UK has a leading role to play in connecting the disclosure and participation aspects of Open Contracting. Public procurement and contracting are a vital strand in the Prime Minister’s golden thread of conditions that enable countries to be successful the world over. It’s the biggest part of government spending and it’s the most at risk of corruption.

Government, the private sector, and civil society, will all have more information to engage effectively with public procurement.

Citizens will guide procurement processes to produce better outcomes. Civil society monitoring, for example, is transformational for service delivery, helping to halve the costs of textbooks in the Philippines and infrastructure such as roads, clinics and schools in various OGP countries.

Category: Open contracting
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