A study of 1,000 UK citizens shows that we want greater access to public sector data to help us make more informed decisions in areas such as education and finance. Despite the government’s pledge to unlock access to more public sector data, many do not believe that the current government system addresses these needs sufficiently.

Key outtakes from the survey include:

  • 68 per cent do not believe the information currently available provides real value to them.
  • 57 per cent of the respondents found the data confusing.
  • Over half (59 per cent) stated that they do not trust the accuracy of the information, revealing that there is still significant work to do before the government achieves its open data goal.
  • 68 per cent said they do not believe they have sufficient access to government data about themselves or public sector data as a whole (76 per cent).

When asked what type of public sector data they would most benefit from, education was considered the most important, with almost two thirds (62 percent) of respondents ranking it ahead of financial services (58 per cent) and public healthcare (52 per cent).

Access to a broader range of education data could help parents make more informed decisions about which school would best suit their family’s requirements. This could be based on data such as examination and Ofsted results, location and catchment area, course portfolio and specialist subjects. Presenting data on financial services and healthcare in a more digestible system could also improve insight into investment, tax, benefits and local medical services, allowing people to make clearer decisions on important personal matters.

People expect to find the information they need online to support informed decision making for personal matters, such as where to send their children to school, but without the ability to trust this data, its purpose is void. The government’s proposal to create greater transparency within the public sector is an admirable initiative. However it is important to ask whether the practical implications of what is being promised have been taken fully into account.

Having announced its intention, the government still has some way to go to deliver on this promise. Bringing together information from across hundreds of government bodies and departments is no simple matter; it is an immense undertaking for any organisation.

And if not managed correctly, these complex government data sets, packed full of information that needs to be updated in real time to maintain their accuracy and value, simply present a sluggish and frustrating experience for users. In order to make this a success, it is essential that the right measures are put in place to support the successful delivery of accurate, accessible data.

Initial government proposals, announced in the run up to the UK general election earlier this year, set out a clear objective by all political parties to personalise the data access experience for UK citizens looking for public sector data on themselves or on a particular government department. The study also examined how UK citizens would like to access this data.

It found that almost half of respondents (43 per cent) would like to access public sector information via a personalised online web portal, whilst (32 per cent) would prefer to access it from individual departmental websites updated in real time with refined search capabilities. This would enable users to tailor their search specifically according to the information they need.

With government cuts impacting on public sector online spending, it is particularly important not to spend valuable resources on publishing inaccurate or dated information that does not meet public needs. This would simply ensure complications further down the line. Success means putting effective standards in place right from the start, to ensure that data quality and value is managed and maintained at all times.