Iain MacKay comments on Tony Dent’s review of the ESCoE report

Iain MacKay comments on Tony Dent’s review of the ESCoE report

This comprehensive review of the ESCoE report exposes some reasons why open government is necessary to help ensure that public resources are neither wasted nor misdirected.

The coalition government that came into office in 2010 showed a determination to provide Open Data in government, manifest in its Open Data command paper.

Specifically, they said:


  •   making it easier to access public data
  •   making it easier for data publishers to release data in standardised, open formats
  •   engraining a ‘presumption to publish’ unless there are clear, specific reasons (such as privacy or national security) not to do so

From the Prime Minister down, central government is committed to making open data an effective engine of economic growth, social wellbeing, political accountability and public service improvement.”

Who would not endorse this? So far as this author is aware there has been no statement by later administrations diluting or reversing this policy.

It follows that the government agency whose raison d’être is the collection and dissemination of data should be showing the way. Collecting statistical data is a science not an art and scientific conclusions should be supported by full disclosure of methods, observations and calculations. These necessities are absent far too often now from official statistical publications and the ESCoE report is a prime example. It does not help that GDPR is often invoked to excuse the failure to disclose important information.

We have only to look over the water to the US Census Bureau to see a genuinely  user-friendly approach to data disclosure that still takes full account of the requirement for individual privacy.

Soft self-congratulatory descriptions of ‘results’ are no substitute for hard data.