The Open Government we Campaigned For?

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

This morning, Liberal Democrat supporters and others unfortunate enough to have made it onto Nick Clegg’s mailing list received an e-mail from the Deputy Prime Minister announcing the Your Freedom website.  Which is great, although a good 24 hours late.

But later in the e-mail, he says:

This is the open government we have long campaigned for.

Really?  Your Freedom is all you’ve campaigned for?  Because that’s a long way from my definition of an ‘open government’.  Your Freedom is a tiny, tiny step on the road to what I, and half the rest of the internet, think that term means.

Where’s the guarantee that the government will take any notice of what’s posted on Your Freedom?  I want to see a promise that any serious item that gets a thousand comments gets debated in the House.

Where’s the full publication of each and every bill that passes through Parliament, and the wiki for us to carve it up and debate it?  Where’s the declarations of who’s had lunch with MPs during the drafting process of these bills?  Where’s my searchable database of members’ interests, and the API so we can run stats on it?  Where’s the abolition of all meetings ‘behind closed doors’ and the publication of annotated, searchable transcripts?

Where’s the downloadable CSV files of every expense for every MP?  Where are the declarations of every use of the party Whips?  Why can’t I see the Treasury’s spreadsheets?

Why doesn’t the government run its own website showcasing each and every result of a Freedom of Information request?  Why do FoI requests exist at all?  A truly open government would publish by default and redact information only when necessary.

If it’s too hard and too expensive to set all this stuff up, just set up an FTP server and dump everything in it – Word docs, database dumps, whatever you’ve got.  There are enough journalists and bored web surfers out there that we’ll eventually make sense of it all for you.

We’ll help, Mr Clegg – there’s enough of us out here that want to see a real open government.  But if that’s not what you had in mind, please stop pretending that the token gesture of _Your Freedom _is all that’s required to dub yourselves ‘open’.