The government needs a ‘firmer grip' on measuring the success of open data policies, according to a report on public access to information by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report focuses on how the government is fulfilling its commitment to promote the transparency of public information.
In its findings, the NAO said that few departments are tracking the benefits of transparency. It used the example of the www.data.gov.uk website which has had an increase in data sets of over 5,000 from January 2010 to December 2011 and more than 1.75 million visits since its launch two years ago.
However, the report said that more than 80 per cent of its visitors leave the home page or the data page on the website soon after visiting. This suggests that they are not accessing data during their visit, but does not take into account other potential access points for the data, such as third-party websites or applications, making it unclear how beneficial open data is on the website.
The report explained that the government estimated that public data currently contributes £16bn annually to the UK economy and academic research suggests that making all public information that is currently traded available for free, such as the Met Office and Ordnance Survey, could add economic value of up to £6bn a year.
However, the NAO warned that the government's ability to maximise economic growth from traded data is constrained by current charging and licensing arrangements, as well as limited understanding of the potential benefits.