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United Kingdom Action Plan 2019-2021

The UK remains committed to the principles of openness and transparency of government. This fourth National Action Plan for Open Government continues our push to increase accountability and visibility of public institutions and services.

The pace of technological innovation in recent years has given rise to a number of high profile cases that serve to underline the importance of the open government movement, and once again reinforce the need for government to strive to be as open and accountable as possible.

The National Action Plan is set against the backdrop of innovative technology being harnessed to erode public trust in state institutions, subverting and undermining democracy, and enabling the irresponsible use of personal information.

But where technology can be misused, there are also positive new opportunities to use technology to elevate the voice of citizens, forging new connections between individuals and the state. As government we must show the way forward, demonstrating how the use of technology in ethical ways can also be a force for good, empowering citizens to scrutinise the work of those they elect, and have a meaningful say in the development and delivery of public policy.

The Open Government Partnership allows us to demonstrate how technology can be used in a positive way, committing alongside other nations to provide new means for people to influence decisions being made on their behalf, create new forms of accountability for public institutions, and shine a light on corruption and fraud.

We are proud to be a founding member of this movement, and to demonstrate our dedication to the cause by once again signalling our intent through the publication of the fourth National Action Plan.

The National Action Plan has many ambitious commitments:

  • Opening up policy making to citizens
  • Transparency around publicly owned natural resources
  • Improvements to the quality and quantity of data we publish as a government to show accountability and drive improvements in the way we deliver public services through third party contractors

I would like to commend the collaboration between government and Civil Society in developing the proposals, the efforts of organisations to continuously push their government counterparts to be ever more ambitious, highlighting the areas that will have the most impact from a citizen perspective and helping to work through the details. The creation of the Action Plan would be a limited and fruitless exercise without the critical friendship of Civil Society organisations throughout its development.

Now that this National Action plan has been developed, we are eager to get on with its delivery, working with our partners in Civil Society to transform the relationship between citizen and state. We want to continue harnessing innovative technologies and approaches to give individuals ever greater agency in the decisions made on their behalf. The commitments of this plan continue the tradition of placing transparency and accountability at the heart of public policy making and service delivery, propelling the UK to be a fairer society, and its people to be ever more empowered.

The Rt Hon Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries

Introduction

The UK has a strong track record in open data. Since co-founding the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011, the UK has led by example – increasing citizen participation in policy and decision making, adopting international open standards for publication, and making an ever greater number of datasets available to the public.

This unprecedented level of openness has created many benefits, from making government more accountable and transparent to improving the effectiveness of public services. It has also created the potential for new businesses to thrive. Through making our data available to the public, we have been able to fuel innovations that make life better and easier.

The fourth National Action Plan (NAP) builds on this momentum by making commitments to increase public participation in government and helping to deliver solutions that are truly transformative. It also acknowledges the need for the public sector to innovate, develop policies that meet the demands of a fast paced world, scale with the demands of public service users, and that can be tested and iterated as they are delivered.

The NAP recognises the need to deepen previous commitments and improve the quality of the data that has been released. The plan shines a light upon the full process of government procurement and spending and promotes transparency about who the government is doing business with.

The plan seeks to address the corruption and fiscal mismanagement in the international natural resources sector. Countries have achieved strong progress over the past 15 years through voluntary reporting and mandatory rules now in force in the UK, the EU, Canada and Norway. The plan commits to going further by enhancing company disclosure regarding payments to governments for the sale of publicly owned oil, gas and minerals, and to establish and implement a common global reporting standard.

At a time when citizens’ trust is being eroded by the influence of social media, it is important to allow for engagement and influence on a local and national basis at times outside of the general election cycle. The NAP looks to pursue new ways to involve citizens in decision-making, through participatory democracy and the piloting of Area Democracy Forums to empower individuals, complementing face-to-face participation with digital platforms to increase engagement and transparency.

We are moving in a new age where technology, such as artificial intelligence, is making all organisations more data-driven. As the UK moves rapidly towards a data-driven economy, we have a real opportunity to harness the potential of open data further. As such the fourth UK National Action Plan is a critical milestone in realising those benefits in government and the economy as a whole.

Summary of commitments

Commitment number and title Commitment summary Lead implementing organisation(s) Other actors involved – government Other actors involved – CSOs, private sector, working groups, multilaterals etc
1. Grants data Working with users across government, the Cabinet Office Grants Efficiency Function will increase the transparency of government grant funding for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years. The Cabinet Office Grants Efficiency Function will continue to assist departments in ensuring that grant making across government is efficient and that funding is being used effectively. Cabinet Office Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 360Giving
2. Public participation in digital and data policy development We commit to developing data and digital policy, including the Digital Charter and the National Data Strategy, in an inclusive and participatory manner. The policy documents will be informed by a robust ongoing dialogue with a diverse range of voices from business, third sector, civil society and data users, including through the UK Open Government Network and Open Government Partnership, to incorporate the views and concerns of the citizens. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Cabinet Office, Government Digital Service Open Data Institute, Open Rights Group
3. Open policy making UK government’s Policy Lab will continue to develop resources to support Open Policy Making (OPM) for more informed and better designed policies with the human experience in mind. To implement this, Policy Lab will develop the OPM toolkit and work with stakeholders like the Policy Profession and departments to consider the levers these groups have over how policy is made; conduct user research with policymakers; increase the transparency and accessibility of evidence; and to make policy resources publicly available. Cabinet Office Policy Lab,Cabinet Office What works team, GDS Children’s Rights Alliance for England,Sense about Science
4. Open contracting data To improve compliance, coverage, and quality of publication to Contracts Finder so that all above threshold public contracts can be tracked from planning to final spending. Cabinet Office DCMS Open Contracting Partnership,UK Open Contracting Steering Group
5. Natural resource transparency To enhance company disclosure regarding payments to governments for the sale of publicly owned oil, gas, and minerals, and to help establish a common global reporting standard. This includes undertaking a scoping study to review what potential national action the UK could take; maintaining the commitment to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); to implementation of the UK-transposed EU Directives for mandatory reporting by companies; and providing clarity for UK-listed extractive companies under the Disclosure Guidance and Transparency Rules. DFID DFID, BEIS, HM Treasury(HMT), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Publish What You Pay UK (PWYP), Global Witness, Transparency International-UK, Oxfam GB and Open Contracting Partnership
6. Innovation in democracy programme To deliver a programme involving citizens in decision making in Local Authorities through piloting Area Democracy Forums to empower citizens to deliberate and make recommendations, leading to real impact on local policy development and delivery. The face-to-face participation will be complemented by digital platforms to increase engagement and transparency. DCMS, in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) Democracy Support Contractor consortium delivering programme: Involve, The Democratic Society, MySociety and the RSA.
7. Effective knowledge sharing for sustainable OG policies and practices across public services in the UK Scotland will lead a programme of discussions to identify how best to support the spread of Open Government policy and practice across public services. This work will draw on the expertise from the OGP and each jurisdiction, and support the priorities in each place. The aim is to establish a process to share learning across the UK; to establish effective, collective governance for leading and spreading Open Government – through collaborative dialogue between governments, civil society and experts. Scottish Government, in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and OGP Scotland Network Representatives of all spheres of government in Devolved Administrations OGP Europe support unit, OGP Civil Society networks
8. Local transparency MHCLG will develop a package of policy proposals to help and encourage councils to publish all the information they can (i.e. not personal or sensitive data) as a matter of course. These proposals will be developed and tested in collaboration with the local government sector. MHCLG will engage with the sector through a series of visits, meetings and workshops aimed at understanding the barriers to and opportunities of greater local transparency. The subsequent proposals will drive further efficiency and innovation within the local government sector. Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Local Authorities
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