Right in the middle of the Open Government Partnership conference, which I mentioned in my post yesterday, the UK National Audit Office (NAO) published its cross-government review on Implementing Transparency.
The report, while recognizing the importance and the potential for open data initiatives, highlights a few areas of concern that should be taken quite seriously by the OGP conference attendees, most of which are making open data more a self-fulfilling prophecy than an actual tool for government transparency and transformation.
The tone of the review is well represented by the first paragraph of its conclusions:
The strategic case for greater transparency is strong . It is to do with more than satisfy public rights to public information, however, and contribute fully to objectives set for it including accountability, service improvements, and growth, then the Government needs a firmer grip on measuring the success of the initiative
The areas of concern highlighted in the review are an insufficient attention to assess costs, risks and benefits of transparency, the variation in completeness of information and the mixed progress. While the two latter can improve with greater maturity, it is the first time that requires the most attention.
To the risk of sounding self-referential, I have been saying this for a long time (see previous posts about risks, costs and benefits), often getting annoyed replies and reactions by open government supporters who have often challenged my skepticism and even the rigor of my analysis.
I hope that people will take the UK NAO review more seriously than my blog (and rightly so) and start asking themselves fundamental questions about how the most value out of these initiatives.
For Gartner clients, a few reminders to prior research (login required) that may help navigate through some of these issues: