News 22nd December 2017

UK OGN End of Year Newsletter 2017

by Andreas Pavlou

Welcome to the End of Year Newsletter!

As the end of December approaches, let’s take a look at some of the open government highlights of 2017!


Current National Action Plan

The UK Open Government Network (OGN) collaborates with and challenges governments in the UK to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms through the UK’s membership of the Open Government Partnership.

Although there are delays to the implementation of some commitments, the current 2016-18 action plan has achieved a number of milestones and successes which are thanks to the support of you, the Network, in pushing and monitoring these reforms.

For example, the UK now publishes an open register of beneficial owners of companies. The Government also now follows the Open Contracting Data Standard, meaning the whole process of bidding, awarding and auditing public sector contracts is publically available. Finally, grants data from the Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice are released to the standard format developed by the 360Giving initiative – making these grants more transparent, efficient and effective.

Let’s not forget either that most recently, the government published its anti-corruption strategy (civil society called for effective and prompt implementation) and launched its consultation revising the Freedom of Information Code of Practice.

If you want to see more, check out the Midterm Self-Assessment reports by Government.

Congratulations to numerous organisations and individuals within the OGN are due here for their collaboration and hard work in getting these reforms through (as well as those in government implementing them)! Well done!

twitterlucyTo keep the momentum going, over the last year-and-a-bit, government officials and OGN members leading on various commitments have had regular update meetings on the implementation of the action plan, which are published online on the OGN website. Click here to see the notes from the most recent National Action Plan III Implementation Meeting.

As well as these regular meetings, the OGN Steering Group has also met Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution (in April), as well as Caroline Nokes, Minister for Government Resilience and Efficiency (in November), to discuss open government and the progress of the various commitments.

If you would like to know about how to be more involved in 2018, feel free to contact me!


Reacting to UK events

It would be impossible to write a roundup of the year without mentioning this year’s snap general election in June! Soon after the announcement, letters signed on behalf of the OGN by the Steering Group were sent out to political parties, calling on them to commit to principles of open government.

icicThis year, the OGN has also engaged in other issues outside the official National Action Plan process – such as by attending the International Conference of Information Commissioners held in Manchester in September. In May, the Network made a joint submission to the Law Commission’s ‘Protection of Official Data’ consultation.


Sustainable Development Goals

sdgsThis year, the Open Government Pioneers Project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the devolved Open Government Networks, has been a growing area of activity for the UK OGN Secretariat. The project has a particular focus on building the capacity of citizens and civil society to use open government approaches to progress the Sustainable Development Goals. Watch out next year for the project conference in Belfast on 15th March!

The UK OGN Secretariat has also begun collaboration with UKSSD to monitor and report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the UK (specifically, Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Next year the whole network will be invited to help with this hugely important exercise.


Developing the UK Network

Earlier this year the family of Open Government Networks was completed with the establishment of a Welsh network. There are now OGNs for the UK and each of the devolved nations – Wales, Scotland (see their latest newsletter) and Northern Ireland.

You can keep up with the various networks’ activities by signing up to the Open Government Network Forum, by checking out the updates on the Open Government Network website and by following us on social media: @opengovuk@opengovni@opengovscot@opengovcymru

The UK OGN Steering Group has also undergone changes. Tim Davies, Michelle Brook and Gavin Freeguard became Steering Group members following their election at the start of the year by you, the Open Government Network. They join the rest of the Steering Group which now comprises:

Andy Williamson, Democratise
Colm Burns, NI Open Government Network
Gavin Freeguard, Institute for Government
Jess Blair, ERS Wales & Welsh Open Government Network
Lucy McTernan, SCVO & Scotland Open Government Network
Martin Tisne, The Omidyar Network
Michelle Brook, The Democratic Society
Rachel Davies Teka, Transparency International UK
Tim Davies, Practical Participation

meetingMembers of the new Steering Group held a strategy meeting in Manchester earlier this year which looked at how to improve the OGN. Following the snap general election and the start of a new Parliament, a broader event was held to look at future opportunities for open government. This strategising is destined to feed into activities and improvements to the OGN over the course of the new year.

The Network Secretariat also gained a new coordinator at the end of October, Andreas Pavlou (that’s me!). Big thanks go out to Matt Harriott who has also coordinated the network this year, as well as Tim Hughes for his continued support and guidance.

I have been running the network now for two months, and am throwing myself into it to make it bigger, better and more effective than ever before. If you have suggestions or want to let me know about what you think about the Network and what can be improved, get in contact!


Looking Ahead into 2018!

Finally, here are SIX key activities to be aware of for the new year…

January 2018 – Sign on letter (open for comment/discussion) to be sent to Minister Caroline Nokes
January 2018 – Fourth Open Government National Action Plan workshops and co-creation process
February 2018 – Submission to the FOI Code of Practice Consultation
March 2018 – Conference event in Belfast, as part of our Big Lottery Fund project
Summer 2018 – Publication of Sustainable Development Goal 16 monitoring in the UK with UKSSD
Summer 2018 – Steering Group elections. Three Steering Group positions will be up for election, so stay alert to get your application in later this year! Read more about the process in section 5 of the UK OGN Terms of Reference.


I hope you enjoyed reading this brief update of the year. If you think any 2017 success stories have been missed out, feel free to let everyone on the OpenGovUK Forum know. In addition, let us know of any particular open government activities to look out for in 2018…


Enjoy the festive break and a happy new year to you all!


Andreas Pavlou, Coordinator of the UK Open Government Network