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UK government most transparent with official data

A new report has found that the UK government is the most transparent in the world when it comes to making official data available for public scrutiny.

The World Wide Web Foundation, which is run by “father of the internet” Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has assessed 86 countries for the way they handle official data and make it available to their citizens. It’s the second such report compiled by the organisation.

According to the resulting table, the UK comes top of that list, followed by the US in second place and Sweden in third. In contrast to the UK, Ireland is down at number 31 – the lowest-placed European country on the list.

Interestingly, the report claims that over 90 percent of the countries surveyed do not publish key datasets in open formats. Meanwhile, less than eight percent publish datasets on government budgets and spending, public sector contracts, and company ownership in open formats.

“There are a lot of countries that have promised to put this basic data out there, really valuable information to cement trust between the government and citizens, but a lot of them haven’t followed up,” Berners-Lee told the BBC.

One of the biggest reasons for the UK topping the charts is the existence of the website, which was set up in 2010 by the then-ruling Labour government. The current coalition government has since expanded the remit of this online facility to include details on government expenditure.

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Although the UK topped the chart, Berners-Lee believes that the country still has a long way to go towards a completely open, transparent government. For example, the UK lags behind many when it comes to making map data available.

“You’d think postcodes would be part of the open structure of the UK, but they’re not,” he said. “The Post Office holds them as being a proprietary format. So, ironically, just a list of places in the UK is not available openly, for free, on the web.”

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