Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/20/eurim_says_public_sector_needs_to_improve_quality_of_information/

Public bodies told: Swapping data feels good, but you must be careful

Eurim gives cautious welcome to EU plans

By Guardian Government Computing

Posted in Government, 20th December 2011 09:22 GMT

Sharing data on public services could have serious consequences unless the material has been valued, maintained and protected and the original reasons for its collection have been taken into account, the Information Society Alliance (Eurim), has warned.

In a report (PDF) on the quality of public sector information, the group says that the drive to put central and local government data online, open to public scrutiny, has revealed the long standing problems with quality that lie behind the reluctance of some departments and agencies to trust one another's data. It adds that it is important that decisions on spending cuts are based on good quality information.

"Meanwhile demands from regulators and government agencies for the collection and retention of data that is not required for operational purposes, but might be needed in future, reduce UK competitiveness and add to public sector costs," says the document.

"The scale and nature of current duplication, inconsistency, confusion and error, both random and systemic, derives from failure to apply the disciplines of information management. The consequences include personal tragedy, avoidable suffering, inefficiency, waste and policy decisions based on mythology, hunch and guesswork, rather than the well informed analysis of timely and reliable data."

Despite its concerns, Eurim says that it welcomes the EU's new Open Data Strategy, which aims to make public sector data more freely available.

To help improve the quality of public sector information, Eurim recommends that:

Dr Edwards Phelps, secretary general at Eurim, said: "While the government should be applauded for its aim of opening up data on public services to save money and stimulate economic growth, it is absolutely essential that government departments understand the risks associated with data sharing and the procedures that should be followed."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

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