The transparency movement has opened a Pandora's Box. It's transforming the world for the better. And now we have started, there's just no going back. But why would you want to stop transparency, even if you could?
Open data is driving growth and prosperity. Data is the raw material of the 21st Century and a resource for a new generation of entrepreneurs. But transparency is not just about economics.
Transparency shines a light on underperformance and inefficiencies in public services. It allows citizens and the media to hold governments to account, strengthening civil society and building more open societies.
Twelve months ago, the UK was one of eight national governments that founded the Open Government Partnership, a powerful new international organisation dedicated to the promotion of transparency and openness. Today, the UK is taking over as leading co-chair of the partnership, which now includes 57 member states or a third of the world's population.
Our predecessors as lead chairs, the US and Brazil, have steered the partnership purposefully and energetically to this point. As co-chair alongside Indonesia, Britain will focus on supporting members to deliver their transparency commitments. Forty-six members have already published action plans detailing more than 300 commitments to open government. The remaining members are developing their plans.
Because we believe that transparency is all about greater accountability, we are putting in place a new Independent Reporting Mechanism for partnership members. This will see governments voluntarily subjecting themselves to the formal scrutiny of researchers drawn from civil society and supported by the media. The mechanism will help ensure all members actually turn their words into actions.
As lead co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, the United Kingdom will lead by example. Data.gov.uk, our web portal, is already the largest data resource in the world with over 40,000 files online. We've also ensured that every British government department has specific new open data commitments in their business plans. But we aren't stopping there. Alongside our international work through the partnership, Britain will keep driving forward our domestic transparency agenda.
Today, we've launched a new tool through the Open Data User Group which allows anyone to petition the government to release data sets that aren't currently available. Individuals and businesses can complete an online form, describing what data they want and what benefits its release would bring.
And we have also just announced plans to open up more business data. This will allow consumers to compare companies' environmental or community performance as easily as they can compare prices when choosing a product.
The open data revolution is having real and measurable impacts on public services and citizen choice in Britain. To take just one example from an OGP commitment, we now release information showing GP practice performance in handling cancer cases. This enables patients to compare survival rates between neighbouring practices and make informed decisions about their care.
Over the next 12 months, our aim is to further secure the foundations of the Open Government Partnership as a globally recognised and respected international initiative. We will strengthen the role of civil society organisations, encouraging greater collaboration with governments to forge more innovative and open ways of working. And we will work with emerging powers to help them embed principles of transparency and openness.
And as an OGP member, we are now working to shape the United Kingdom's revised transparency action plan. I look forward to consulting with civil society and open data users to shape these commitments. But above all I hope that civil society, citizens and the media will hold our feet to the fire and demand that we turn our words into action.