Open data will generate "vast markets" that will drive the next generation of life sciences, Tim Kelsey, the government’s adviser on transparency and open data, told an audience in a speech today.
"There is an enormous economic opportunity with this data," Kelsey told the attendees of think tank Demos’s Where Next for Open Data? keynote, adding that he believed open government was the best way to drive the performance of public services.
"Open government as a whole is the most important lever we’ve got, and open data is an essential precondition of that," he said.
Kelsey added that there was already evidence that open data could drive performance of public services, as well as facilitate consumer choice. He gave the example of local primary care trusts that had begun to accredit local practices, saying that more people had started using the accredited practices.
"Evidence is now overwhelming that if you give professionals data that compares their performance, it will improve their performance," Kelsey said. "We need openness as a point of principle, not as the exception. Transparency should follow the money."
Ian Manocha, the managing director of SAS UK, was also on the Demos panel, and emphasised his belief that open government data would need an agreed framework and standards to ensure that it doesn’t become a "dumping ground" for sprawling data sets, possibly leading to even less government transparency than exists at present. Manocha also challenged the idea that all government data should be free of charge.
In response to this, Kelsey said: "If you want to charge [for government data], give us a really good reason why it’s going to benefit UK Plc in terms of jobs and the economy."
This debate comes just days after the US government CIO, Vivek Kundra, warned Barack Obama’s top science advisers that open data access could lead to "an IT cartel" of vendors.