The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivered a speech at Google Zeitgeist 2011 this week, focusing on the benefits of open data and the effects it is having on government. Osborne claimed that the UK coalition government was fully embracing new media technology:
“From day one of the coalition Government, we have chosen to take a different path, and to embrace the accountability revolution enabled by the internet age.”
Osborne was also keen to stress that accountability is not just about cost-cutting and spending efficiency, but is also a moral obligation. Greater accountability ensures the right services get to the right people where they are needed, something which in the context of aid giving becomes very important indeed.
The Chancellor went on to promise an ongoing commitment towards greater data transparency and public involvement:
“Our ambition is to become the world leader in open data, and accelerate the accountability revolution that the internet age has unleashed.”
Osborne’s comments come in the same week that The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) revealed its progress to date. It showed that The Department for International Development (DFID) became the first donor to publish to IATI earlier this year, highlighting how the UK is increasingly delivering on its commitment to greater aid transparency.
In contrast to George Osborne’s comments, Liam Fox has expressed opposition to greater regulation of the UK Aid Budget. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron, leaked to The Times today, the Defence Secretary aired concerns that greater transparency would lead to less flexibility in what can be declared as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA):
“…as a result of the wider drive to improve the transparency and accountability of international development work, the Government’s own monitoring and reporting requirements for ODA are likely to become more stringent. This may present risks to my department’s ability to both report certain priority activities as ODA and, therefore, to receive funding for them from the Conflict Pool.”