Monday, December 07, 2009

PM speech on smarter government

The Prime Minister has today (7 December) given a speech on smarter government, promising to make available all public services performance data by 2011:
Information is the key. An informed citizen is a powerful citizen.

We will ensure that people can get access to the information they need to engage in dialogue with public service professionals; and in doing so reduce bureaucratic burdens. This will drive improvements in public services, making them more personal and cost-effective, whilst at the same time strengthening democratic deliberation and giving frontline workers and voluntary organisations the freedom to innovate and respond to new demands in new ways.

We are determined to be among the first governments in the world to open up public information in a way that is far more accessible to the general public.

So I am grateful to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt for leading a project to ‘make public data public’.

This has enormous potential. Already more than 1,000 active users of the internet have registered their interest in working with government on this, and we have so far made around 1,100 datasets accessible to them.

And there are many hundreds more that can be opened up - not only from central government but also from local councils, the NHS, police and education authorities.

And these must all have the opportunity for feedback and interaction, for that is where power lies for the citizen.

This increased transparency and accountability will enable citizens to compare local services, lobby for improvements, choose providers and demand changes in service delivery - with the web as a powerful new tool for sharing customer experience - in the same way that social networking sites provoke debate and discussion and mobilise opinion. Judgement on public services will no longer be the preserve of anonymous government inspectors.

And I can announce today that we will actively publish all public services performance data online during 2010 completing the process by 2011. Crime data, hospital costs and parts of the national pupil database will go on line in 2010. We will use this data to benchmark the best and the worst and drive better value for money.

It will have a direct effect on how we allocate resources. We will introduce next year NHS tariffs based on best practice on the ground not average price. And we will be benchmarking the whole of the prison and probation system by 2011.

And we will give our frontline services greater freedoms and flexibilities to respond innovatively to this data, reducing the number of ring fenced budgets, rationalising different central funding projects and joining-up capital funding within a local area.

Releasing data can and must unleash the innovation and entrepreneurship at which Britain excels - one of the most powerful forces of change we can harness.

When, for example, figures on London’s most dangerous roads for cyclists were published, an online map detailing where accidents happened was produced almost immediately to help cyclists avoid blackspots and reduce the numbers injured.

And after data on dentists went live, an iphone application was created to show people where the nearest surgery was to their current location.

And from April next year ordnance survey will open up information about administrative boundaries, postcode areas and mid-scale mapping.

All of this will be available for free commercial re-use, enabling people for the first time to take the material and easily turn it into applications, like fix my street or the postcode paper.

And I can further announce today that, again from next April, we will also release public transport data hitherto inaccessible or expensive and release significant underlying data for weather forecasts for free download and re-use.
Full speech here.
See also Digital Engagement blog on the Cabinet Office website.

On the subject of making government data public, the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce has just released a draft of its report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. I haven't read the whole report, but it has an interesting section on how Australia compares internationally in this area. It also sets out the policy in the context of the ongoing programme of FOI reform by the Rudd Government.

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