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Open data 'has role in policy making'

01/02/16

Cabinet Office toolkit points to potential for civil servants to harness data from government sources

Government policy makers can use of open data from a range of sources to support their analysis and decision making, according to a new document from the Cabinet Office.

Open_Data_CC0_WikidataIt can augment existing data and be used in visualisation techniques to make a case more compelling and show where policies are failing to reach their intended targets.

The advice is included in the newly published Open Policy Making Toolkit, which is aimed at helping civil servants to develop policies that will work effectively in the digital world. It includes an emphasis on using new analytical techniques and digital tools to ensure policy is data driven.

Its section on open data says it can do a lot to bring in external thinking, and help policy makers bring “voices of citizens” into the process.

It also points to digital repositories of open data such as Data.gov.uk, the UK Data Archive, and more specialist sources such as Ofsted's school dashboard.

“Often the best approach is just to explore,” the document says. “There are many places that hold openly available data that can be used for analytical purposes. Policy makers should seek data and not be overly prescriptive about traditional methods of understanding policy issues.”

Among the other elements of policy making highlighted in the toolkit are using the agile approach to do so iteratively and quickly, co-designing with service users – in which open data can play an important part – user research to understand their needs, ethnographic research to understand their emotions, and evaluating impact and success.

Image by Jan Ainali (own work), CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

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