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Archives director calls for simplified data

Tables and graphs are meaningless

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The director of information policy and services at the National Archives has said the public sector needs to make information more easily accessible to people to achieve efficiency.

Carol Tullo said organisations could deliver more for less if they "provide access to information and enable others to use it".

"If we empower and provide easy routes and simple routes without barriers to this wealth of information that we create in the public sector, and allow others to add value to that and to innovate, then we can strive and drive for innovation," she told the annual conference of geographical information systems (GIS) specialist Esri.

She made the point that many people cannot read a simple graph or tabular material. "So if you're sitting somewhere in authority, in a local government department or a government agency, and you're churning out information and you're saying, 'It's online, it's there for everyone to look at' - 80 per cent of people can't read it or understand it."

She also said that public sector organisations are "drowning in information" and have to deal with the challenge of managing it without being "completely compliance based". Making the information more accessible to outsiders would encourage them to provide solutions that would improve public sector efficiency.

Tullo said she believes local government initiatives are paving the way for open data, and that allowing communities to get involved and interact with certain data initiatives was a step in the right direction. But she also acknowledged that there are concerns in organisations over losing control of the data.

"As we move away from close central control, it does mean we lose the ability to know exactly how our information is being used," she said, claiming that the public sector would have to accept this in return for broader potential benefits.

Tullo also described GIS as an important data tool. "There is absolutely no question that information does depend almost entirely on mapping place, space and location," she said.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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