By Maximilian Clarke
The use of open data could be a critical factor in determining the success or failure of the UK’s growth agenda, according to new research from Deloitte, the business advisory firm.
Deloitte’s report examined the growing role of public data in transforming how government can set policy and serve citizens. It has found that in an information-driven age, the use of open data can potentially help to improve public services in many ways. This suggests that the private sector has an opportunity to develop new commercial models for applying such insight, fuelling innovation and fostering the development of UK businesses. When combined with the Government’s efforts, these models have the potential to stimulate growth for the UK.
“Opening up access to data can lead to greater public sector efficiency, transparency and accountability," commented Costi Perricos, Daloitte's public sector analytics leader. "Government leaders have an opportunity to combine the resourcefulness of online citizens and entrepreneurs with the power of factual data to more effectively achieve their mission. What’s more, businesses have the opportunity to apply open data to create better and more cost-effective commercial services — something that can only be a good thing given today’s difficult economic conditions.”
Deloitte’s report follows closely behind the Government’s announcement that it will create the Open Data Institute, the Data Strategy Board and the Public Data Group. While these efforts should help the Government to realise its vision for an open data society, Deloitte’s research shows that significant challenges remain in terms of addressing ownership, accountability and privacy.
Perricos continued: “The decision to release raw transaction data represents a fundamentally new form of openness. Accountability is not the same as liability, and the Government must ensure that adequate thought is given to potential liabilities that arise from making data publically available. Privacy issues, too, pose a significant and serious challenge, especially if anonymity of citizens in one data set can be threatened by inferences made after publishing other data.
“However, such unintended consequences should not thwart ‘open’ government efforts. Instead, public leaders and government managers should seek to identify, mitigate and manage potential risks to get — and stay — ahead of them. This may include applying analytics to facilitate fact-based decision making, or using social media to search for structured and unstructured data on how citizens interact with public services.
“There is tremendous potential for using mashups, crowdsourcing and other techniques to transform data into meaningful knowledge — the sort of ‘big insights’ that will help to unlock growth. This is something that we, as citizens, government managers, legislators, business owners and other stakeholders, should fully embrace as a positive change.”
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