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Hold my feet to the fire using open gov data, pleads minister

Smell of burning socks to waft along Whitehall?

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Head of the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has told journalists that he wants them to pore over government data and hold the feet of ministers "against the fire".

Opening a conference to mark the Open Government Partnership today, he gave a rallying cry to the media everywhere to use data to hold governments to account.

Whitehall will no longer "disguise and deny" he said, but would be pumping out "unprecedented amounts" of data, and Maude wants a lot of people to look at that data closely.

I don’t have any doubt that giving our press a lot of data to pore over will at times be uncomfortable for us in government. But that’s the whole point. A closed door culture encourages complacency at best and at worst corruption.

That’s why I’m issuing a call to arms to the media the world over to hold the feet of government officials and ministers like me squarely against the fire.

His speech is excerpted on the Cabinet Office site and expanded on in a Telegraph article by the minister.

However it wasn't Maude's own feet that he was immediately offering up to hacks. The only particular feet that seemed to be on offer were those of GPs. He said:

For example, we are now publishing information on how GP practices perform when handling cancer cases, so patients can compare survival rates between practices and make informed decisions about their care.

No other specific examples of open data were given in the excerpt, but he did point out that data.gov.uk hosts the largest data resource in the world, with over 40,000 data files.

Maude ended up with a rousing cry to the world's nations to follow his example by opening data portals everywhere - equivalent to the UK gov's own data.gov.uk.

The UK is the senior co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, until September 2013. ®

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