United Kingdom

Country profile, June 2011

Key policy documents

Consulted key e-government policy documents.


E-government actors involved in the collaborative production.

  • The Cabinet Office (holds overall responsibility for the Government's efficiency and reform agenda.)
  • Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (aims to reduce the operational cost of ICT in government, while supporting technologies that increase citizen involvement, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and localisation.)
  • The Chief Information Officers Council (acts as a focus for partnership between IT professionals across government and as a means to balance government-wide agendas with accountabilities in line organizations)
  • Office of Government Commerce (OGC) (is an office of the Treasury, whose role is to help central civil government and the wider public sector to achieve value for money from their procurement and commercial activities)

    Coverage in policy documents

    Coverage of collaborative production in e-government policy documents.

    Information to be provided by the Member State.


    of collaborative production used.

    The Big Society: the Big Society is a Government agenda that seeks to shift power from politicians to people. It formed a key element of the Conservative 2010 election campaign and was the subject of the first major policy announcement of the new coalition government on 18 May 2010. The main themes are:

  • Devolving power to communities and local government
  • A greater role in public services for VCOs and civil society organizations
  • Supporting the voluntary and community sector


    Priorities covered and/or stimulated. (Top-down collaboration or bottom-up collaborative production)

  • The “political leadership” factor which was identified as a driver for open data policy the United Kingdom.
  • In December 2009, the United Kingdom government published the report “Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government” in which it is argued that government has to radically open up and promote transparency (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2009).
  • The United Kingdom explicitly mentions the use of open data to strengthen law enforcement. In its report “Putting the Frontline First” the British Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2009) states that “The new online crime maps which went live in October 2009 mean that for the first time everyone in the country can search by postcode for facts about crime in their area and what is being done by the policy to deal with it.” (http://maps.met.police.uk)
  • Key motivation: Action 1: strengthen the role of citizens and civic society, 1.3 Radically opening up data and promoting transparency: “Ultimately a more informed citizen is a more empowered citizen. In a modern democracy citizens rightly expect government to show where money has been spent and what results have been. […] Data can also be used in innovative ways that bring economic benefits to citizens and businesses by releasing untapped enterprise and entrepreneurship.”
  • Increase democratic control and political participation: Most of the countries studied argue that the publishing of government data can empower citizens to exercise their democratic rights. The United Kingdom government for instance states that (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2009, p.25): “Ultimately, a more informed citizen is a more empowered citizen. In a modern democracy citizens rightly expect government to show where the money has been spent and what the results have been”6. The United States government published several datasets online in order to make politics and policy making more transparent and provide citizens with the tools to monitor government performance. For instance, it launched the website www.recovery.gov in 2009 on which state reports on expenditures are published.
  • The chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2009, p.26) argues that: “Data can also be used in innovative ways that bring economic benefits to citizens and businesses by releasing untapped enterprise and entrepreneurship. […] A study by the University of Cambridge found that the growth to the UK economy from freely releasing just a subset of the public sector data that are currently sold could be £160 million in the first year alone (Newbery et al, 2008).”
  • Strengthen law enforcement: In particular the United Kingdom mentions this motivation in their strategies. All kind of applications have been developed (by government and businesses) based on security data which aim to inform citizens and involve them in – for instance – criminal investigation tasks.
  • The UK government describes concrete open data principles to be applied. The number of datasets online and the sophistication of the open data portals differ. In particular, the United Kingdom has published many datasets and 5 632 datasets in the UK) and launched advanced websites. Education and training instruments are applied to a lesser extent.

    Policy cycle

    Collaborative production in the policy cycle (development, implementation, evaluation).

    The process of opening up government data was begun under the previous government, and there have been a number of milestones along the way:

    • January 2005: The full provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 come into force, creating a general right of access to information held by public authorities. Freedom of Information requests have since become an important part of journalism and civic activism, with the MPs expenses scandal probably the most high-profile FOI-related case.
    • September 2009: data.gov.uk is launched by Gordon Brown and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, with the aim of encouraging the general public and web developers to re-use data the government holds.
    • April 2010: After the "Free our Data" campaign by the Guardian newspaper, amongst others, the Ordnance Survey makes available limited map data for free re-use, as part of its OpenData programme.
    • June 2010: The newly-formed Government releases the COINS database of central government expenditure. The coalition has also acted quickly to get other datasets into the public domain, notably central government workforce, special advisors and highly-paid civil servants.
    • The TheyWorkForYou website lets UK residents find out what their MP, MSP or MLA is doing in their name, read debates, written answers, see what’s coming up in Parliament, and sign up for email alerts when there’s past or future activity on someone or something they’re interested in.
    • Tools have also been created to make it easy for citizens to petition their representatives (e.g. the UK Prime Ministers’ Number10.gov, developed by mySociety). Number10.gov now has over 5 million unique email addresses (representing around 10% of the population).


    Foreseen policy interventions and instruments.

    Martin Bellamy, director of the office of the government chief information officer, announced the launch of Prototype versions of the Government Application Store — a central store of software applications that can be accessed by public sector organisations over the internet — will be available to a selection of public-sector bodies: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/networking/2010/02/02/g-cloud-app-store-trial-to-begin-this-week-40017999/

    Legal provisions

    With regard to the implementation of Freedom of Information, PSI Re-use and correlation with collaborative e-government.

  • January 2005: Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • September 2009: data.gov.uk is launched
  • April 2010: After the "Free our Data" campaign by the Guardian newspaper, amongst others, the Ordnance Survey makes available limited map data for free re-use, as part of its OpenData programme.
  • June 2010: The newly-formed Government releases the COINS database of central government expenditure.
  • The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, which came into force on 1 July 2005, implements in UK law the EU Directive 2003/98/EC of 17 November 2003 on re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive). In May 2005, the UK Government established an Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) with responsibility for the coordination of policy standards on the reuse of public sector information. Attached to the Cabinet Office, the new body has an extended remit to advise on and regulate the operation of the re-use of public sector information, and will set standards and provide a practical framework to increase transparency and remove obstacles to re-use. According to the government, the OPSI will lead the UK public sector to provide consistent and transparent processes for potential re-users to gain access to public sector information.
  • The United Kingdom Report on the Re-use of Public Sector Information 2009 captures the scale and acceleration of activity in the three years since the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005 No. 1515) (PSI Regulations), setting out the key initiatives and landmarks that have shaped the information policy landscape over the past years.
  • In 2011 the UK government announced the formation of a ‘public data corporation’ which would provide‘ stability and certainty for businesses’, ‘real value for the taxpayer’ and ‘opportunities for private investment in the corporation.’
  • The UK LG Group Inform is an online service intended to achieve benefits for public sector bodies working with open data. Local government members will be able to upload their own data and access other local authority data and national sources (e.g. national statistics). It will allow councils to compare data to make informed decisions, reduce costs and improve services. The service will require that all data sources are both open and linked.

    Public service domains

    Public service domains covered (based on 20 basic services).

    The 12 services for citizens are as follows:

    1. Income taxes: declaration, notification of assessment
    2. Job search services by labor offices
    3. Social security benefits
    4. Personal documents: passport and driver’s license
    5. Car registration (new, used, imported cars)
    6. Application for building permission
    7. Declaration to the police (e.g. in case of theft)
    8. Public libraries (availability of catalogues, search tools)
    9. Certificates (birth and marriage): request and delivery
    10. Enrolment in higher education/university
    11. Announcement of moving (change of address)
    12. Health related services (interactive advice on the availability of services in different hospitals; appointments for hospitals

    The 8 services for businesses are as follows:
    1. Social contributions for employees
    2. Corporate tax: declaration, notification
    3. VAT: declaration, notification
    4. Registration of a new company
    5. Submission of data to statistical offices
    6. Customs declarations
    7. Environment-related permits (incl. reporting)
    8. Public procurement

    Other information

    Many of the skills needed to create, access and use open data are not yet widespread in the voluntary sector. There is a cost to effectively creating and using this data, while sharing commercially sensitive data could reduce competitiveness. As open data becomes embedded in government, voluntary organisations which contract with government may be compelled to produce and share data as part of those contracts.

    400 local authorities in the UK showed a low level of interest or perceptions of relevance regarding the re-use of data, as 25% failed to respond to such inquiries while 50% indicated that they had not yet prepared an Information Asset Register. However, despite the slow pace, the Uptake of the Open Government License by local authorities continues to grow.

    Some examples of open data in action:
    It is difficult to quantify the impact that open government data has had so far, particularly at this early stage. However, there are a number of examples of citizens and organisations using (and creating) public data to hold government to account and to create value for their communities.
    • FixMyStreet: A mySociety website that allows citizens to report problems in their area (like potholes, graffiti and fly tipping) directly to the local council. The site keeps a log of all queries, so not only are they reported to the council, but other citizens can see where the issues in their area are.
    • Where does my money go?: This site, run by the Open Knowledge Foundation shows how public money is spent, and informs debates about public spending in the UK. They have been at the forefront of efforts to gain access to the COINS database.
    • Open Councils: OpenlyLocal have been tracking councils that release open data, and seeing how many are truly open. At the time of writing, only nine out of 434 councils are truly open (by the definition they are using), with another nine publishing open data. These councils include: Lichfield, Salford, Warwickshire, East Staffordshire and the Greater London Authority. These councils are also sharing apps made using the data: Warwickshire has gallery of applications, and so does London.
    • Interactive Tube Maps: a very powerful example of how an open data feed, in this case live London Underground tube information, can create simple applications that capture the imagination. The live tube map was created by Matthew Somerville. (The site is currently out of action - here's a video of it working.)
    • National Biodiversity Network: charities and statutory bodies involved in wildlife and biodiversity have come together to share the information they collect on particular species throughout the UK. Citizens can see what species are active in their local areas, and organisations can collaborate on action and campaigning.
    • London Crime Mapping: Following Boris Johnson's election as Mayor of London in 2008, the Metropolitan Police launched an online map showing crime in London Boroughs and Wards.
    • Subsidy Scope: this US-based project tracks government spending on ad tax subsidies for non-profit organisations. The site also includes data from federal bailouts
    • The Guardian data blogs create the potential for improved analysis and visualization in which citizens can participate.