UK government most open/ transparent in world; Ireland & Greece lowest ranking in Europe
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Mar 25, 2015 - 3:54 PM

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The UK government is the most open and transparent in the world, according to a global rankings on the basis of public access to official data. Ireland and Greece at a 31 ranking are among the lowest in Europe with Hungary at 33 - the lowest of all European countries including Russia.

The US and Sweden come second and third in the rankings while France and new Zealand tied for fourth place. Mali, Haiti and Myanmar, also known as Burma, are at the bottom of the table.

In 1766 Sweden became the first country in the world to permit freedom of the press and Sweden has had a tradition of ombudsmen since 1809. In fact, the word ombudsman comes from Swedish, as a person who acts as a representative and it was decided that an institution independent of the king was needed to ensure that laws and statutes were obeyed. The first Parliamentary Ombudsman was appointed in 1810.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose organisation, World Wide Web Foundation, compiled the table ranking access to official data, said last January that the UK has "a long way to go" before it has a fully open government.

Sir Tim who is the founder of the World Wide Web World Wide Web @ 25; Internet @ 45 years old in 2014: See world's first website — thinks UK can do better even though it got a top ranking based on its website, which was launched by the Labour government in 2010 and continued by the coalition government.

"Despite coming top of the rankings, the UK has a long way to go. The release of map data is something where the UK has lagged behind, and you'd think postcodes would be part of the open structure of the UK, but they're not," Sir Tim told the BBC. "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."

The World Wide Web Foundation says that a global movement to make government “open by default” picked up steam in 2013 when the G8 leaders signed an Open Data Charter — promising to make public sector data openly available, without charge and in re-useable formats. In 2014 the G20 largest industrial economies followed up by pledging to advance open data as a tool against corruption, and the UN recognized the need for a “Data Revolution” to achieve global development goals.

However it adds: "this second edition of the Open Data Barometer shows that there is still a long way to go to put the power of data in the hands of citizens. Core data on how governments are spending our money and how public services are performing remains inaccessible or paywalled in most countries. Information critical to fight corruption and promote fair competition, such as company registers, public sector contracts, and land titles, is even harder to get. In most countries, proactive disclosure of government data is not mandated in law or policy as part of a wider right to information, and privacy protections are weak or uncertain."

The top countries "all have established open data policies, generally with strong political backing. They have extended a culture of open data out beyond a single government department with open data practices adopted in different government agencies, and increasingly at a local government level. These countries tend to adopt similar approaches to open data, incorporating key principles of the open definition, and emphasising issues of open data licensing. They have government, civil society and private sector capacity to benefit from open data.

Countries included in this cluster in the Open Data Barometer (ODB) rank order are: UK, US, Sweden, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Korea, Austria, Japan, Israel, Switzerland, Belgium, Iceland and Singapore. While this year’s top five includes three of the signatories of the 2013 G8 Open Data Charter (UK, US and France), the rest of the G8 languish much lower in the rankings, with Japan, Italy and Russia not even making the top ten."

Country rankings

Open data Barometer second edition 2015

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