UK Information Policy: Opening Government up to Citizens
Barbara Buckley Owen, Specialist in Government Information Policy, United Kingdom
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During the last five years governments around the world, both national and local, have been improving access to their information, opening up their datasets and engaging with social media. This move to transparency may well be a response to concerns about the low level of trust in government, but must nevertheless be welcomed by the information profession. The UK has been one of the leading pioneers of the open government revolution, but has it gone far enough in helping citizens to access information they need to run their daily lives? The presentation will put the recent developments in the context of overall government information policy, drawing on findings from PhD research at Loughborough University. The research found: • a lack of co-ordination of information policy across government • a need for new skills within government to provide information in the Web 2.0 environment • uneven progress in the development of citizen-centric services • lack of information literacy policy at national level • and low involvement of the information profession in driving forward the developments in the provision of public information. Whilst the influence of the information profession was disappointing, what was surprising was the extent to which other individuals pushed forward open government, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web. This paper will tell their story.
Author's professional CV
Barbara’s thirty-plus years in the information industry have encompassed business information, research library management, development of CD-ROM products, oversight of research projects and government information policy.
At the British Library she was part of the management team for a European Commission-funded project to develop national bibliographies on CD-ROM. She subsequently returned to the British Library to set up and manage a research programme on the value and impact of library and information services and additionally managed its co-operation and international programmes.
She then worked for two government advisory bodies; at the Library and Information Commission she specialised in government information policy, and then as Secretary to the Statistics Commission she gained insight into policy-making at the highest level within the UK government.
This, plus her earlier voluntary work in the pressure group the Coalition for Public Information, inspired her to undertake the recently completed PhD research at Loughborough University into UK government policy on citizens’ access to public sector information. The full thesis can be viewed at Loughborough University Institutional Repository website.