The development of UK Government policy on citizens' access to Public Sector Information

This paper describes research to investigate the development of United Kingdom government policy on citizens’ access to public sector information from 1996 to 2010, the first such significant project from an information science perspective. In addition to mapping UK policy documents, the main research method was the undertaking of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders from both inside and outside government. Main findings are: uneven progress in the development of citizen-centric services; the continuing need for intermediaries; and a lack of information literacy policy. The paper also charts the increase in the opening up of government data for re-use during 2009 and 2010. It is considered significant that this increase in transparency, by both main political parties, should come at a time when trust in government was low, citizens’ expectations of electronic access to information were rising and the technology was enabling new channels for engagement. The influence of individuals was found to be considerable, for example by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Professor Nigel Shadbolt and Tom Steinberg. Principles for citizens’ right of access to information are presented.