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Audrey Mandela: Public Sector Information Policy: On the Right Track?


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Audrey Mandela: Public Sector Information Policy: On the Right Track?

  1. 1. Public Sector Information Policy: On the Right Track? Audrey Mandela Chair The Locus Association
  2. 2. Public Sector Information (PSI) matters <ul><li>The Locus Association was established to encourage the public sector to maintain a trading environment that is fair and equitable, in particular in relation to the licensing and re-use of public sector information </li></ul><ul><li>“ Between 15% and 25% of commercial information products and services are based on information held by the public sector.” (Lord Falconer, former Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Government is a natural monopolist for most PSI.” (Treasury Spending Review) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Geographic information is a key element in PSI.” (European Union study by PIRA) </li></ul><ul><li>Over £500 million of lost value to the economy because of current arrangements. (OFT Commercial Use of Public Information Market Study) </li></ul>
  3. 3. The current position on PSI trading is not optimal….. for business or for government <ul><li>Locus does not believe PSI should necessarily be free </li></ul><ul><li>Key PSI Holders focus on exploitation, not maximization of re-use </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Public task is poorly defined </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial conflicts of interest are endemic </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Legal, sales and marketing overheads </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Investment to challenge existing private sector products </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Restrictive licensing </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inhibits Government operations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Impedes modernization – unsuited for Internet use </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limits transformation and sharing services </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Disadvantages citizens – lack of choice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Strong disincentive to private sector investment, enterprise and innovation </li></ul>
  4. 4. What is actually happening? Operational Efficiency Review consequences Defending PSI appears to PSI Holders to be in the national interest <ul><li>New public guidelines are vague and come from a variety of (sometimes conflicting) independent reports: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- CUPI Study (OFT) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- Power of Information Study and Taskforce </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- Cambridge Study </li></ul></ul></ul>Private acceptance that PSI Holders must “sweat the assets” Barriers have stopped coming down
  5. 5. Government is the main user of PSI but there is a high cost of non-statutory data Limitations of use, for example on Internet Unnecessary gold-plating of data quality Questionable efficiency vis a vis the private sector Lack of choice because monopoly providers Tortuous licensing Complex negotiations
  6. 6. Private sector blocked from innovation Limitations of use, especially on Internet Opaque accounting, cross-subsidization Competitive threat (and now reality) Unfair behaviour and terms Inadequate regulatory framework
  7. 7. The playing-field is not level <ul><li>Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has no real regulatory power </li></ul><ul><li>OPSI obliged to support government policy – not all stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>PSI Holders have substantial resource to defend their business models. [ OPSI’s entire annual budget is less than OS spends on lawyers alone] </li></ul><ul><li>“ Information Fair Trader Scheme” is an “agreement” designed to encourage best practice – not to enforce it. Not open to Judicial Review </li></ul><ul><li>OPSI’s only sanctions are too nuclear </li></ul><ul><li>The PSI Regulations exclude vital PSI and need tightening </li></ul><ul><li>The National Audit Office remit is too high-level </li></ul><ul><li>The Office of Fair Trading can only “investigate” 1 in 30 complaints </li></ul><ul><li>Stimulating PSI re-use requires all barriers to be removed </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Cambridge Study <ul><li>Socially optimal policy would involve moving to marginal cost charging for a subset of products </li></ul><ul><li>Having proper governance/regulatory regime in place is central to realising benefits of change: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Public Task currently poorly defined </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trading Funds have no incentive to minimise cost but only to match cost to revenues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trading funds can currently always raise prices and increase revenues to meet costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leads to gold-plating of products and over-investment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A change in charging regime should not have an impact on data quality or efficiency </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Shareholder Executive advising Trading Funds but the Shareholder Executive only represents interests of some stakeholders </li></ul>
  9. 9. At present the UK government does not have a viable policy <ul><li>Gives away some data </li></ul><ul><li>Sells some data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Public Task” boundaries are blurred </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aggregation of “Product” costs permitted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cross-subsidisation condoned </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unrefined and refined data costs merged </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of clear and effective regulation tolerated </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Government must decide…. <ul><li>a) If it continues commercial activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to separate clearly and fairly, commercial activities from those of its data collection activities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>b) If it retrenches and focuses purely on data collection activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whether to provide them free or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At real cost (plus margin) for each data collection activity </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. What is needed? <ul><li>Decisions about what government should be doing in this space </li></ul><ul><li>Information about what PSI is available </li></ul><ul><li>Clarity about use conditions </li></ul><ul><li>A level competitive playing-field. Some Trading Funds are almost certainly acting anti-competitively. Privatisation is thus impossible. </li></ul><ul><li>A review process that is relatively swift, low cost, open, adequately independent and robust </li></ul><ul><li>Transparent outcomes within a realistic timetable </li></ul><ul><li>Certainty that decisions will be implemented promptly </li></ul>
  12. 12. THE LOCUS ASSOCIATION PO Box 54826 London SW1Y 4XX Tel: 020 7930 9788 Fax: 020 7976 1680 Email: Web: