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UK tops G8 open data league

18/03/15

A report from the Centre for Data Innovation shows the UK government scores highest on five measures of open data implementation

The UK ranks highest among the governments of G8 countries for its approach to open data, according to a new report from the Washington based Center for Data Innovation.

Open Data in the G8 cover imageOpen Data in the G8: A Review of Progress on the Open Data Charter gives the UK a score of 90 out of 100 for its progress in implementing the five principles of the Open Data Charter, which was adopted by the G8 in 2013 to promote the free availability of government data.

It awards the maximum 20 points in every category except for progress towards the principle of open by default. While the government has created non-binding guidelines and codes of practice, progress in this category has been stymied by technological and cultural barriers, including legacy IT systems' inability to produce data in machine readable formats and some departments' reticence to release data.

Even though the UK receives top marks for releasing data for improved governance, the report says there is still room for improvement. It cites a 2013 report by the Social Science Research Network in saying that while open data has increased government accountability in some cases, it had done little to increase public participation.

Praise for progress

But it praised the progress made towards the other three principles: the quality and quantity of data - with the UK data portal containing 20,000 published and more than 4,000 unpublished datasets - that it should be usable by all and should be released for innovation. It praises the efforts of government to engage with other groups, including private sector stakeholders and start-ups, to prioritise data releases and in hosting events such as hackathons.

The UK is followed in the table by Canada and the US with 80 out of 100. France scores the best among other EU members with 65, while Italy has 35 and Germany 25. Japan scores 30 and Russia a measly five.

Daniel Castro, director of the centre and co-author of the report, said: "Open data is not only a tool for improving transparency and citizen engagement, but it also has a significant impact on economic growth.

"Many countries are sitting on vast untapped data resources, and those that figure out how to best leverage this information are going to be the most competitive in the global data economy. Nations that do not properly implement an open data strategy are leaving money on the table."

Collaboration and replication

Among its recommendations, the report says countries should collaborate more in dealing with the technical barriers to open data release and use, such as metadata and licensing issues. It suggests that, rather than develop their own licences, countries could adopt ones that already exist, such as the UK's Open Government and Creative Commons Licences.

It also advocates the use of internationally supported open source data publishing platforms such as CKAN rather than building national data portals from scratch.

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