David Cameron’s Transparency Revolution? The Impact of Open Data in the UK

Paper by Ben Worthy: “This article examines the impact of the UK Government’s Transparency agenda, focusing on the publication of spending data at local government level. It measures the democratic impact in terms of creating transparency and accountability, public participation and everyday information. The study uses a survey of local authorities, interviews and FOI requests to build a picture of use and impact.

It argues that the spending has led to some accountability, though from those already monitoring government rather than citizens. It has not led to increased participation, as it lacks the narrative or accountability instruments to fully use it. Nor has it created a new stream of information to underpin citizen choice, though new innovations offer this possibility.

The evidence points to third party innovations as the key. They can contextualise and ‘localise’ information and may also provide the comparison to the first step in more effective accountability.

The superficially simple and neutral reforms conceal complex political dynamics. The very design lends itself to certain framing effects, further compounded by assumptions and blurred concepts and a lack of accountability instruments to enforce problems raised by the data.”

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