Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has pledged to open up more government data to the public in a bid to make the UK government more open and transparent.
Maude was speaking at the Open Government Partnership conference (OGP) in Brazil just as the UK takes co-chairmanship of the organisation along with Indonesia.
Data is "the new raw material of the 21st century", he told the conference. "I believe transparency will come to be the defining characteristic of future public policy. In the past, governments tended to leave large tracts of public sector information unanalysed and under-used due to resource constraints and a cultural unwillingness to make it available."
By releasing government data, people, organisations and companies will have an incentive to analyse it to hold governments to account, as well as to use it to build new applications. There are 47 independent application developers working in the UK to give information to rail passengers via smartphones, for example, according to Maude.
With the internet making data pervasive and easily transmissable, governments are at a pivotal moment when they need to think how data can be use effectively and responsibly, he added.
"Transparency is difficult, it's risky, it's uncomfortable at times – but it sticks, once you start you cannot go back. And we will meet the challenges and risks of transparency in these first formative years of the age of open data," he said.
The Open Government Partnership was formed in September 2011 by countries committed – or claiming to be committed – to open and transparent government.