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ODI welcomes manifestos on open data – with reservations



The Open Data Institute has said political parties are taking open data seriously, but need to make further commitments

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has given a qualified thumbs up to the main political parties' plans for open data in their manifestos for the general election.

A blog by its policy lead, Ellen Broad, says the ODI is confident that open data will play a key role in any future UK government, and that the major parties share an awareness of its importance. But their commitments could go much further.

It refers to an earlier warning by Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the ODI's chair, that government has to make constant progress, making the opening up of data part of "business as usual". The blog says that none of the parties go into detail on how the publication and use of open data would be taken forward if they were to be in government after the election.

There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. It rounds up the key points of the manifestos - taking in the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, Greens and Plaid Cymru - and says that most highlight the importance of publishing more information to help government make decision and improve transparency and accountability. This compares favourably to the 2010 election, when only the Conservatives raised the issue in their manifesto.

It also points out that the new documents contain commitments to publishing more information about public procurement, overseas tax and company details, healthcare, crime and education among other issues.

Drawing the link

"Our job will be to draw the link between 'more publicly available information' and open data," it says. "We need to make sure that when the next government publishes information to help it make and deliver its policies, it is published as machine-readable data with an open licence."

The blog says the ODI's priorities for the next 12 months are to expand its Open data roadmap for the UK - which sets out what government can do to promote progress - give the new government the chance to draw on the ideas of its members, and deliver relevant training and tools.

The assessment comes a few weeks after the Washington based Centre for Data Innovation published a report that rates the UK government as the world leader for implementing open data. It scored 90 out of 100 for its progress in putting the five principles of the Open Data Charter into practice.

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