30th October 2015 London, UK

UK receives International Award for Open Government

At the Open Government Summit in Mexico City this week the UK was presented with the International Award for Open Government marking our outstanding achievement in the area and our commitment to the principles and benefits of Open Government. Yet the majority of UK citizens are not aware of the revolutionary progress we have made on this journey over the past seven years nor could they articulate the impact this has had on the way we conduct our daily lives. I also suspect that if they were told that in the past 12 months I have worked with 26 other countries from Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, to Brazil, Botswana and Burma to share my experiences of this journey with them to help these countries work towards being as open and transparent as the UK is they would not believe it. Yet I have. So what has happened and why do we deserve such an award?


Since the launch of data.gov.uk in early 2010 the UK Government has been steadily increasing the amount of data it releases. This data is freely available for anyone to view, use or build on. Meanwhile the advances in technology such as the emergence of smart phones and the growth of the app market in the same time period have increased demand for this data exponentially. Government now regularly releases data about everything from where and how central government departments and local councils spend taxpayer’s money,who makes those decisions and what they are paid, to the demographic and performance details of police, schools and hospitals, as well as full details of all UK publicly registered companies, including the names of the owners and directors. It is also true that most other countries do not have the full canon of their statutes and law available as we do through legislation.gov.uk .

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the details of all incidents reported to police in different parts of the country are available on www.police.uk and categorised by offence. In the UK we now also publish the contact and salary details for senior public servants as a matter of course. To some countries publishing such information is not only revolutionary, but potentially dangerous to suggest.

As UK citizens we now expect this level of accountability from our public servants and services as a right. We take this information – either directly or through the media- and use it inform our views on our public services which then influences how we engage with our community, make decisions about our lives and ultimately how we vote and how we behave as citizens.


Other data released by government has been taken to build tools which have become integral to running our lives day to day – how many people have not made use of the proliferation of travel planning apps (in London there are now over 100 to choose from) to navigate public transport networks either to work out the best routes or to know when the next bus or train is due and thereby avoid a prolonged wait in the rain or used a fuel price calculator to find the cheapest petrol in the vicinity? All of which depend on data government has worked hard to make open and available for use.

In doing this the UK has led the world in harnessing the power of Open Data to make government more accountable, improve our public services and drive forward economic and social growth and for the benefit of everyone in the country. This award acknowledges all of that work, as well as commending the often radical steps we in the UK have taken to get to where we are, but it is also a reminder that Open Government is a constant journey. Getting the UK where it is today has been both enjoyable and challenging, but meeting the challenge of the expectations we’ve set at home and overseas and ensuring we’re still pushing the boundaries, makes me confident that there if we’re to fully realize the potential of Open Government there’s even more hard work to come.