The use of open data could be a critical factor in determining the success or failure of the UK's growth agenda, according to a report from business advisory firm Deloitte.
But although the move will increase transparency and make government more innovative, responsive and better informed, there are ongoing issues around privacy, the report warns.
Called Unlocking Growth, How Open Data Creates New Opportunities for The UK, the report argues that providing data to the public will bring four main benefits:
Openness: as a result of making raw data easy to access and reuse the government will increase its accountability to citizens.
Innovation: the move will make citizens and government more innovative by encouraging the public and government developers to design own applications and harvest value from public data.
Responsiveness: access to information from social networks means the government can participate in public debate and be more responsive to the public.
Better informed: data analytics will become a core competency, improving productivity, quality and performance in the public sector.
The report follows several big announcements around making data more open.
Yesterday, vice president of the EC Neelie Kroes announced the release of a vast number of datasets as part of the EU's new open data strategy, which is expected to deliver a €40bn (£34bn) boost to the EU's economy.
Yesterday also saw the coalition officially launch the Government Digital Service (GDS), which will form the basis of digital government in the UK.
These developments follow the launch last month of the Open Data Institute (ODI), which aims to help drive innovation and exploit the growth opportunities for the UK created by the government's Open Data Agenda.
The government is to commit up to £10m over five years to the institute, which will be co-directed by professors Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt. The ODI, which is based in East London's Silicon Roundabout area, will focus on innovation, commercialisation and the development of web standards to support the Open Data Agenda.
Also last month, chancellor George Osborne announced plans to extend the Public Data Group in his autumn statement. The group, which includes Ordnance Survey, the Met Office and HM Land Registry, has been extended to include Companies House. The data it provides is free at the point of use.
Privacy issues are described in the Deloitte report as posing a "significant and serious" challenge, particularly if the anonymity of citizens in one data set can be threatened by inferences made after publishing other data.
Costi Perricos, head of public sector analytics at Deloitte, said: "The decision to release raw transaction data represents a fundamentally new form of openness.
"Accountability is not the same as liability, and the government must ensure that adequate thought is given to potential liabilities that arise from making data publicly available.
"Privacy issues pose a significant and serious challenge too. But, this should not thwart ‘open' government efforts.
"Instead, public leaders and government managers should seek to identify, mitigate and manage potential risks to get – and stay – ahead of them.
"This may include applying analytics to facilitate fact-based decision making, or using social media to search for structured and unstructured data on how citizens interact with public services."
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