Election 2017: ODI calls for commitments to data infrastructure, standards and engagement

Written by Rebecca Hill on 5 May 2017 in News
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Funding for open innovation, the Information Commissioner’s Office and data skills also feature on Open Data Institute’s wish list as the UK prepares to head to the polls

As the UK prepares to head to the polls, the ODI sets out what it wants to see for data - Photo credit: PA

The Open Data Institute has published a list of pledges it would like to see published in the parties’ manifestos ahead of next month’s general election.

These cover data infrastructure, skills, ethics and engagement, and are set out in three levels of commitment - basic, intermediate and advanced, aiming to challenge the parties to do more than the minimum when it comes to data.

The ODI said that a basic commitment to data infrastructure in the UK would be to “recognise that data is vital to a 21st century society and economy” - however it pushed the parties to commit to making key data infrastructure, such as map and address data, as open as possible.

The ideal stance, it said, would be for parties to match France and Denmark, which have both pledged to create legislation that recognises and maintains core data assets.


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As part of its requests on ethics, the ODI urged parties to commit to boosting the funding for the Information Commissioner’s Office so it can expand its powers to include data ethics.

There have been previous calls for the UK’s data protection watchdog to be given more auditing powers over the public sector and to provide it more funding, especially ahead of the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May 2018.

An intermediate commitment to ethics would be to set up a data ethics board to advise on the use of data in society, while a basic commitment would be to say that the party recognises that “the public needs to trust how government uses data”.

The ODI also wants to see more engagement on use of data, saying that manifestos should aim to commit to an “ongoing national debate” about data use that aims to create a shared vision across central, devolved and local governments.

Pledging to offer further consultations on the collection, use and publication of data by government would be an intermediate commitment, the ODI said.

Meanwhile, the ODI called for a greater commitment to open innovation, through funding for programmes supporting open innovation, and by publishing open data and using open standards in the public sector to bolster innovation.

A basic proposal would be to state that the party recognises that “access to data is key to innovation”.

Other pledges the ODI would like to see in manifestos are a commitment to investing in data literacy and data science skills, and work to ensure that more of society can benefit from the potential of open data.

On this point, the ODI said that a basic commitment would be to recognise the power that large digital companies, like Google and Facebook, have and how this impacts people, businesses and governments.

An intermediate pledge would be to offer fiscal incentives, like R&D tax credits, for companies that open up their data in a way that can benefit consumers, while an advanced statement would be a commitment to work with the large digital platforms on opening up their data.

The institute acknowledged that it was unlikely anyone would vote for a candidate based solely on the data commitments within their manifesto, but that analysing parties’ statements on data would help understand how the next five years might look under them.

“They also help us all understand whether the candidates understand the changes to our society that are being brought about by the internet and world wide web, and how data and new technologies have created new ways to deliver policies,” the ODI said.

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