This is an unusual review in that it is a story of opportunities rather than problems. Ittakes a practical look at the use and development of citizen and state-generatedinformation in the UK. For example, information produced by the government (oftenreferred to as ‘public sector information’) includes maps, heart surgery mortalitystatistics and timetables, while information from citizens includes advice, productreviews or even recipes.Public sector information underpins a growing part of the economy and the amount isincreasing at a dramatic pace. The driver is the emergence of online tools that allowpeople to use, re-use and create information in new ways. Public sector informationdoes not, however, cover personal information, such as credit record and medicalhistories. This is the first review to explore the role of government in helping tomaximise the benefits for citizens from this new pattern of information creation anduse.When enough people can collect, re-use and distribute public sector information,people organise around it in new ways, creating new enterprises and newcommunities. In each case, these are designed to offer new ways of solving oldproblems. In the past, only large companies, government or universities were able tore-use and recombine information. Now, the ability to mix and ‘mash’ data is far morewidely available.The review was conducted through a wide-ranging literature review, three in-depthcase studies and interviews with over 60 decision makers, website operators, andusers inside and outside government. There are social and economic benefits to newways of making and sharing information, whether involving government, citizens orboth, for example:
In medical studies of breast cancer
and HIV patients, participants in onlinecommunities understand their condition better and generally show a greater abilityto cope. In the case of HIV, there are also lower treatment costs.
Studies of ‘wired’ local communities demonstrate that there are more neighbourswho know the names of other people on their street.
Sharing restaurants’ food safety information in Los Angeles led to a drop in food-borne illness of 13.3% (compared to a 3.2% increase in the wider state in the sametime frame). The proportion of restaurants receiving ‘good’ scores more thandoubled, with sales rising by 5.7%.
By providing clear information when dispensing medication, pharmacists canimprove patient adherence/persistence with medication advice by 16–33%.
Since 1990, when the World Wide Web first made the internet usable by massaudiences, the number of users has risen from virtually none to 61% of the UK adultpopulation. The impacts of this transformation are diverse and profound. TVconsumption is falling and internet usage is rising fast, and as many prospectiveonline shoppers now consider a search engine to be as important as talking to a trustedfriend when making purchasing decisions.