Meeting notes 15th February 2021

Strategic Discussion on Open Government Multistakeholder Forum

by Guest

Strategic Discussion on Open Government Multistakeholder Forum

December 9 2020, 10.30 – 12pm

Co-chairs: Fiona Deans (Government Digital Service)

Kevin Keith (UK Open Government Network)


  • The UK is a founding member of the OGP (established in 2011) an international coalition of over 70 countries committed to upholding the core values of transparency, accountability, and participation.
  • Open Government sits within the ‘Ethics and Public Trust’ pillar of the data programme. As part of the UK’s Open Government policy area, government-wide commitments to transparency, accountability and public participation are developed every two years in collaboration with relevant external Civil Society groups.
  • The forum for this activity is known as the Multi-stakeholder Forum (MSF) a group comprising nominated representatives from Civil Society, and government officials representing departments leading in key policy areas relevant to the agenda.
  • Civil society and government officials met on Wednesday December 9th for a strategic discussion on the Forum, to propose and discuss possible themes that will be taken forward in 2021 and co-developed between government departments and relevant Civil Society expert groups.

The following commitment areas and actions were discussed:

1. Open Procurement/Contracting

Open procurement and contracting attracted significant conversation, especially around issues exposed by the covid response. Civil society expressed concerns that it has become difficult to follow the process with the standard and timing of data released making scrutiny even more difficult. It was acknowledged that this is a shifting landscape with the end of the Brexit transition period approaching*. Movement is currently happening in this space, with a green paper on rules reform recently released – the public consultation on which may impact a possible NAP5 commitment. Additional civil society asks include a central system for monitoring contractor performance, as well as a public list of conflicts of interest for risk management.

ACTION: Set up a working group to identify more detailed future commitment on Public Procurement.

*At the time of meeting

2. Open Justice

 The open justice conversation centred around the availability of court documents, which was acknowledged by both sides to be both a priority and a difficult project. The creation of a senior data governance panel was discussed – although the panel raised questions around open recruitment to fill it, involvement of civil society, funding, and the panel’s role in building a commitment for NAP5. Additional asks related to a public, fully free court judgement and sentencing remark database (subject to privacy considerations) with representatives from civil society supporting responsibility being housed with the National Archive.

ACTION: Rich conversation to follow in the working group next year to more closely define tangible actions.

3. Data Ethics

The discussion around algorithmic transparency focused on the intersection between making data available and the ethics of its use. Issues like the use of impact assessments and use of accountability tools were addressed by both sides, as was the interest in formulating a commitment for NAP5. Civil society requested a closer look at equity and equality to address concerns about the government’s use of data – with the suggestion that candidate diversity data be worked into a possible commitment.

ACTION: formulate a broad working group in 2021 to look at a commitment, possibly incorporating candidate diversity data.

 4. Health

 Currently, health data in the UK has an overreliance on national data sets, which are manipulated using AI or Machine Learning techniques to apply to smaller geographies. Compared to the EU or other countries internationally, this can call into question the validity of the data. Aside from this specific concern, it was noted that health is quite a broad topic, and some work to narrow down a possible commitment needs to be done, possibly tied in with a push towards local data collection.

ACTION: commitment could focus on local level data use and best practice (proposal originates from Manchester-based healthcare specialist) – discussions to be picked up with health colleagues in due course.

5. Misinformation

Civil society emphasised the need for government data to be accurate, timely, comprehensive, and usable, since there is an ecosystem of re-users of that data. While misinformation can sometimes feel like a very challenging arena, trustworthiness of data should be a priority, and a commitment should be considered on correct and appropriate data use. Government stakeholders emphasised that current plans to hold a policy forum would bring together civil society, academia, and platforms themselves to measure effectiveness of interventions, which could feed into a plan forward. Additionally, misinformation is being tackled through audience resilience and media literacy work. The Online Harms white paper is due to be published in Spring 2021, which will commit to an online media literacy strategy, uses learnings from the Covid response, as well as expertise drawn from a wide range of stakeholders.

ACTION: Continued discussion during early 2021, to consider how the strategy laid out in the  Online Harms White Paper could feed into an open government commitment.

6. Freedom of Information

 Civil society has emphasised that Freedom of Information is a critical judgement criteria which was not included in NAP4. Even with COVID related problems taken into account, response rates and times have been declining for several years and should not be normalised. Strong push for inclusion of FOI commitment in NAP5 to combat this. Given that many aspects of FOI are devolved, there could be an opportunity to link with Devolved Administrations on a potential commitment.

ACTION: continued discussion by a broad working group in early 2021.

Theme areas not discussed due to time constraints:

  • The Environment and Climate Change (introduced but not discussed)
  • Democracy building and processes/decision making models
  • Public Standards and Accountability


Civil Society

Kevin Keith (Open Government Network (OGN) Committee Chair)

Ruchir Shah (Open Government Network)

Susan Hawley (Director, Spotlight on Corruption)

George Havenland (Spotlight on Corruption)

Alex Blandford (Civic Tech Expert, OGN Committee elected member)

Alex Runswick (Senior Advocacy Manager – Transparency International)

Professor Arpana Verma (University of Manchester, Head of the Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care, Director of Manchester Urban)

Jess Blair (Director, Electoral Reform Society Cymru)

Lucy McTernan (Scotland OGN rep and Global OGP Steering Committee member)

Rachel Davies (OGN Committee member)

Tim Hughes (Director, Involve)

Alan Wu (Senior Regional Coordinator, Open Government Partnership)

Gavin Freeguard (Head of Data, Institute for Government)

Government Officials

Devolved Administrations:

Doreen Grove (Scottish Government)

Pamela Bannon (Northern Ireland Government)

Vincent Devine (Welsh Government)

Rhiannon Caunt (Welsh Government)

Home Office:

Harvey Byrne (Joint Anti-Corruption Unit)


Natalia Domagala (Head of Data Ethics)


Harriet Ainsworth-Smith (Courts and Transparency, Access to Justice)

William Ferguson (Courts and Transparency, Access to Justice)

Madeline VanOss (Courts and Transparency, Access to Justice)


Katie Holder (National Data Strategy)

Lucy Rubenstein (Head of Counter Online Manipulation, Security and Online Harms)

Katie Ferson (Media Literacy)

Mari Durban (Anti-Vaccination misinformation)

Cabinet Office:

Tobias Jolly (Fraud, Error, Debt & Grants)

Andrew Bowen (Head of Open and Transparent Contracting)


Zilan Kara

William Hart

Alicia (Lily) Walker (Local Government Strategy and Improvement)