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The Power of Information:
An independent review by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg
This report reflects the views of the external authors and is not a statement of government policy.

June 2007

Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ....................................................................................................................3 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION .........................................................................................................7 CHAPTER 2: CHANGES IN THE USE AND AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION.................9 CHAPTER 3: WHY THESE CHANGES MATTER ........................................................................14 CHAPTER 4: THE CHALLENGES FACING GOVERNMENT ...................................................17 CHAPTER 5: EXPLORING NEW OPPORTUNITIES...................................................................22 CHAPTER 6: IMPROVING ACCESS TO PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION........................31 CHAPTER 7: PROTECTING THE PUBLIC INTEREST ..............................................................43 CHAPTER 8: FOLLOW-THROUGH AND NEXT STEPS ............................................................46 APPENDICES ......................................................................................................................................47 REFERENCES .....................................................................................................................................53

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Executive summary
This is an unusual review in that it is a story of opportunities rather than problems. It takes a practical look at the use and development of citizen and state-generated information in the UK. For example, information produced by the government (often referred to as ‘public sector information’) includes maps, heart surgery mortality statistics and timetables, while information from citizens includes advice, product reviews or even recipes. Public sector information underpins a growing part of the economy and the amount is increasing at a dramatic pace. The driver is the emergence of online tools that allow people to use, re-use and create information in new ways. Public sector information does not, however, cover personal information, such as credit record and medical histories. This is the first review to explore the role of government in helping to maximise the benefits for citizens from this new pattern of information creation and use. When enough people can collect, re-use and distribute public sector information, people organise around it in new ways, creating new enterprises and new communities. In each case, these are designed to offer new ways of solving old problems. In the past, only large companies, government or universities were able to re-use and recombine information. Now, the ability to mix and ‘mash’ data is far more widely available. The review was conducted through a wide-ranging literature review, three in-depth case studies and interviews with over 60 decision makers, website operators, and users inside and outside government. There are social and economic benefits to new ways of making and sharing information, whether involving government, citizens or both, for example: • In medical studies of breast cancer1 and HIV patients, participants in online communities understand their condition better and generally show a greater ability to cope. In the case of HIV, there are also lower treatment costs.2 Studies of ‘wired’ local communities demonstrate that there are more neighbours who know the names of other people on their street.3 Sharing restaurants’ food safety information in Los Angeles led to a drop in foodborne illness of 13.3% (compared to a 3.2% increase in the wider state in the same time frame). The proportion of restaurants receiving ‘good’ scores more than doubled, with sales rising by 5.7%.4 By providing clear information when dispensing medication, pharmacists can improve patient adherence/persistence with medication advice by...
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