Open Government in the UK

The role of the government

Seminar Paper, 2015
18 Pages, Grade: 1



1 Introduction

2 Main part
2.1 Theories and Definitions
2.1.1 Terms
2.1.2 Role of the government
2.2 Implementation of Open Government in the UK
2.2.1 Development of Open Government Data in the UK
2.2.2 Comparison within the G7 Principle 1: Open by default Principle 2: Quality and Quantity Principle 3: Usable by all Principle 4: Releasing data for improved governance Principle 5: Releasing data for innovation
2.2.3 Impacts
2.2.4 Summary

3 Conclusion

4 References
4.1 Literature
4.2 Graphics

1 Introduction

The progressing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are the main source for innovation nowadays and are causing a so called 5th economic cycle after the ones that emerged by the industrial revolution (1st cycle), the steam engine and coal (2nd cycle), steel and heavy engineering (3rd cycle) and automobile, oil, petrochemicals and mass production (4th cycle) (cf. Perez 2009: 9). According to Perez (cf. 2009: 12) the so called “information revolution” has been enabled through cheap microelectronics, computers, software, telecommunications, control instruments, computer-aided biotechnology and new materials. ICTs are long since interweaving all parts of daily life and didn’t stop at administration processes so that a new model of the interaction between the government and the citizens evolved. The new model of communication between the government and the citizens through ICTs is called E-Government and as part of this can Open Government (Data) be seen. Many states worldwide already took actions to put this into practice; especially well- developed countries (cf. Granickas 2013: 7). In the case of Open Government (Data) various stakeholders are involved like the government, citizens and consumers, media, businesses and NGOs (cf. Granickas 2014: 12). But as different parties want to take their advantages by Open Government there are different interests how to translate it into practice. This paper will focus on the role of the UK’s government that started to implement Open Government in 2009 (cf. Davies 2014: 9). by highlighting the impacts caused through Open Government.

This topic has a societal relevance because although only few people are familiar with Open Government yet, it has potential to gain a (social) added value for society, but can also bring risks with it. The chase for information has progressed as we are living in the information era and Open Government Data presents high-value information for the ones that can take advantages of it. It is scientifically relevant as well, because due to the recent appearance there haven’t been conducted many studies about this topic yet. The role of the researcher is important when it comes to themes where different interests are existing, because it is the task of the academician to have a neutral role in order to ensure valid findings.

This paper is based on literature review and will at first give on overview about the terms used. Then the role of the government according to the Open Government philosophy will be explained as well as the development of Open Government in the UK. After that follows a comparison of Open Government within the G7 states and the impacts in the UK will be explained, followed by a summary.

2 Main part

2.1 Theories and Definitions

2.1.1 Terms

In this section the main theoretical assumptions shall be explained, because terms can be confusing when it comes to the interactions of states and citizens in the era of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). First of all it is important to explain E-Government in the context of the topic because it is the umbrella term for this field. The penetration of all areas of life by these technologies didn’t stop at public administration. Hence new forms of communication between the public and the government are emerging. Yen classifies E- Government as “the communication between the government and its citizens via computers and a Web-enabled presence”. (Evans/Yen 2006: 3)

Parts of these E-Government implementations are the Open Government policies as shown in figure 1. This table illustrates the findings of the scholar Hans J. Scholl who conducted a survey among 200 established E-Government researchers (cf. Scholl 2013: 1ff.), who had to rank their main research interests.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig.1: Topical Areas of Interest in E-Government Research

It is obvious that amongst many other themes, routing in the interdisciplinary field of politics, information technology, communication and law, especially Open Government has become a top domain of interest (=15.21% of the topic interests).

In the times of expanding digital culture and technology, the understanding of government’s role has changed. Thus an “open” government can be described as “seeking to respond to increasing citizen expectations around service delivery and effectiveness.” (Eaves 2006: 139).

According to Eaves, governments should “act as a platform[,] [and] share information (particularly raw data), are transparent in their operations and decision making, enable and leverage citizen-led projects, are effective conveners, and engage citizens’ requests, ideas, and feedback more intelligently.” (ibid.)

This idea of government’s role is strongly connected to the term Open Government Data (OGD), which also receives a great attention in E-Government research (= 7.2 % of the researchers voted this as main interest) (cf. Scholl 2013: 5). To prescribe the meanings of this term we first have to step back to the government’s activities in dealing with data. For an accurate decision making in politics governments have ever since been collecting data on an amount of topics, like finances, agriculture or demographics just being some of many (cf. Huber 2013: 274). These data stocks are referred to as Public Sector Information (PSI), which can be defined as “information that is generated by governments and administrations on any level (communal, regional, federal) or by institutions under government control regardless of their legal status” (Burkert 2004: 3).

The shift from Public Sector Information to Open Government Data contains the quality of the data and the accessibility of the data. To become open, data not only has to be collected, but also published on the internet, according to the “Open Definition”: “Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose” (Open Knowledge Foundation n.d.). Tim Berners-Lee, who acts as a central figure in Open Government Data, has classified the quality of data published in a five-star-scale (cf. Figure 2). The point of matter is the format the data is published in and whether it can be linked to others (5 stars).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 2: 5-Star-Scale according to Tim Berners-Lee, retrieved on Jan. 07, 2015

2.1.2 Role of the government

In connection with Open Government Data many stakeholders are involved like developers, journalists, CSOs (= Civil Society Organization) and NGOs (= Non-Governmental Organization), businesses, members of general public and governments. (cf. Granickas 2014: 11). Thus the focus in this paper is on the government’s role, a model of this can give better understanding. The McKinsey report’s model awards the government a central role and points out the interrelation with the other stakeholders (cf. Figure 3).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 3: The government’s role in Open Government Data (own representation based on Granickas 2014: 12)

As shown in Figure 3 the connection with other stakeholders is quite tight, because governments are providing resources to them: mainly the data, but also funds, regulatory framework and the conditions for more participation. In return governments receive input from the stakeholders to improve their governmental performance (cf. Figure 3). In particular some of the main benefits for governments can be transparency and democratic control, innovation, improved efficiency and effectiveness of services and impact measurement of policies (cf. Open Data Handbook, cit. in Granickas 2014: 12).

These impacts derive from two steps: At first at the “open data provision stage (governmental open data portals or fragmented provision of data by public sector etc)” (Granickas 2013: 11) and secondly “as a result of re-use of open government data (building tools, application, conducting analysis etc.).” (ibid.)


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Open Government in the UK
The role of the government
University of Salzburg
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Laura Vaida (Author), 2015, Open Government in the UK, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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