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Open data a closed book to most civil servants

An Open Data Insitute blog post of the first ever survey* into civil servants’ awareness of open data reveals an astonishing level of ignorance.

Among the survey’s main findings were the following:

  • 78% of civil servants do not know about government plans for open data and the benefits that follow;
  • 75% say they don’t know where to find useful data to help their decision making;
  • 57% do not know how to access data sets, how to interpret them or how to best apply data standards;
  • Only 52% recognised that ready access to data and data standards will generate new enterprises, jobs and services in the public and private sectors.

Sir Humphrey and his Whitehall mates (plus their counterparts in local government. Ed.) are essentially saying that they find it too difficult to access and reuse the right data and – more importantly – that they do not have the technical knowledge and expertise to exploit what data is available.

What implications does this have for the UK government’s aspirations to be a world leader in open data – aspirations that Chancellor George Osborne voiced in his 2011 autumn statement? (news passim) Negative ones probably, unless better skills, training and communication are introduced across government departments, local government and the public sector in general.

* The research was conducted in December 2012 on behalf of Listpoint and involved over 1,000 responses received from central and local government, non-departmental bodies, the NHS and the police.

NB: This post originally appeared on the chief scribe’s own blog.