and accessibility |
15. The Government's data.gov.uk website was
launched in January 2010 to index public data releases in a single
place. While there has been significant growth in the number of
datasets linked to data.gov.uk, the functionality of the website
is poor. It is difficult to navigate the website and data are
not categorised in a standard way. More than four-fifths of visitors
leave the website immediately without accessing any of the links
provided. The Cabinet Office told us that the website is about
to be re-launched, at a cost of £140,000, with better functionality
to make it easier to access data.
16. The Government has focused on releasing raw
data online, and expects that benefits will arise from the development
of online products and services such as smartphone applications.
We questioned whether this may result in the exclusion of many
of those who need information about services most. The most recent
data on internet use show that over 8 million adults have no access
to the internet. Older people, people with disabilities, and people
on lower incomes are over-represented within this group.
We can accept the point made to us by witnesses that, for example
in the health sector, consultants and GPs themselves use newly
available data to drive improvements which can benefit all patients,
regardless of whether individual patients have access to the internet
it is difficult to see how online presentation of information
to support choice, for example the school performance tables,
does not create an advantage for those more able to access it
directly. The Cabinet Office told us that the focus should be
on improving access to the internet, for example in libraries,
or by improving broadband accesson which there is still
some way to gorather than running multiple systems to provide
access to information.
17. For datasets intended to enhance accountability,
expert witnesses told us that more could be done to assist interpretation
and to build on emerging interest. The Local Government Association
told us that the spending datasets published by local authorities
can be difficult to interpret without better explanation of context.
Our expert witness from University College London told us that
the police crime map on its own does not drive better accountability,
and that the ambition would only be achieved if complemented by
additional activity, for example by neighbourhood police teams
better engaging and communicating with local residents.
We heard that police forces vary in the extent to which they provide
basic information so that residents can follow up issues shown
on crime maps. The Home Office suggested that it was for residents
to put pressure on local forces to address this issue.
18. We heard that local authorities' compliance
with releasing information specified in the Department for Communities
and Local Government's Code of Recommended Practice is generally
high, with Nottingham City Council the only council refusing to
publish its spending data.
19. For local government performance reporting,
the Department for Communities and Local Government has actively
sought to reduce demands on local authorities from central government.
The Local Government Association is developing a tool, LG Inform,
which is expected to be the most significant product that aggregates
and reports on local government finance and performance information
when it launches later this year. 
20. Although standardisation of information is
important to enable meaningful comparisons, the Local Government
Association noted the importance of local bodies being able to
reflect local circumstances and priorities. Although most councils
are involved in the development of LG Inform, we also heard that
there are approximately 40 councils that are not yet participating.
The degree to which councils adopt standardised measures, and
participate in LG Inform, will clearly affect the comparability
of data, and hence the contribution of published data to accountability
and service improvement objectives. The Department for Communities
and Local Government told us that they will take stock of how
effectively LG Inform meets transparency objectives once it is
27 Qq 106-107 Back
Q 111 Back
Q 119 Back
Qq 111-115 Back
Qq 1-2 Back
Qq 26-29 Back
Q 108-110 Back
Qq 1, 14-16 Back
Q 2 Back
Q 3 Back
Q 88 Back