G-8 Leaders Sign Charter to Make Data More Open

18 June 2013

The leaders of the Group of Eight countries June 18 committed to publishing government information in more useful ways, agreeing on an “Open Data Charter” and setting follow-up plans.

The eleventh and final point of the summit declaration says:

Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account.

More expansive is the Open Data Charter itself, which contains five principles and 27 commitments. Other countries are invited to sign the charter.

In addition, a “Technical Annex” describes “Best Practices” and planned “Collective Actions.” The eight governments agreed to produce action plans on implementation in October.

The Annex “constitutes a ‘living’ set of guidelines that may be subject to amendments after consideration of emerging technology solutions or practical experience gained during the course of implementation of the G8 Open Data Charter.” Among other things it calls for the use of “robust and consistent” metadata and identifies 14 “high value data.”

The leaders made  a number of other transparency-related decisions, addressing extractive industries, land transactions, development aid and corporate ownership in two-days of meeting in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, where trade, economics and many other topics were also addressed.

The meeting was hosted by the United Kingdom, whose government has made open data a domestic priority. The G-8’s moves on open data are highlighted in a UK press release.  

The UK also is the lead co-chair of the multi-lateral Open Government Partnership, where the UK also has stressed open data. Russia recently withdrew from the OGP.  Germany, France and Japan are not OGP members. The other G-8 countries are Canada, Italy and the United States.  

Transparency Emphasis

The preamble to the 33-page summit communiqué says:

Transparency – empowering people to hold governments and companies to account. We have agreed a transformative Open Data Charter to make budget data and other government information public in an easily accessible way. We will make progress towards common global reporting standards to make extractive industry payments more transparent. And we will work with resource-rich countries to help them better manage their extractive revenues so as to provide a route out of poverty and reliance on aid.

Later in the communiqué is more explanation. The Open Data Charter and Technical Annex comprise nine pages (charter and annex combined) of the 33-page document.

The communiqué language:

Open Data

 46. Open government data are an essential resource of the information age. Moving data into the public sphere can improve the lives of citizens, and increasing access to these data can drive innovation, economic growth and the creation of good jobs. Making government data publicly available by default and reusable free of charge in machine-readable, readily-accessible, open formats, and describing these data clearly so that the public can readily understand their contents and meanings, generates new fuel for innovation by private sector innovators, entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organisations. Open data also increase awareness about how countries’ natural resources are used, how extractives revenues are spent, and how land is transacted and managed.

47. We have today agreed and published an Open Data Charter (annexed) with the following principles:

? Open Data by Default – foster expectations that government data be published openly while continuing to safeguard privacy;

? Quality and Quantity – release quality, timely and well described open data;

? Useable by All – release as much data in as many open formats as possible;

? Releasing Data for Improved Governance – share expertise and be transparent about data collection, standards and publishing processes;

? Releasing Data for Innovation – consult with users and empower future generations of innovators.

48. This Open Data Charter will increase the supply of open government data across a number of key categories including health, environment and transport; support democratic processes; and ensure that all data supplied are easy to use. We encourage others to adopt this Charter. G8 members will, by the end of this year, develop action plans, with a view to implementation of the Charter and technical annex by the end of 2015 at the latest. We will review progress at our next meeting in 2014.

49. In keeping with the Open Data Charter principles, transparent data on G8 development assistance are also essential for accountability. We have all agreed to implement the Busan Common Standard on Aid Transparency, including both the Creditor Reporting System of the OECD Development Assistance Committee and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), by 2015. To show greater G8 leadership we will ensure data on G8 development assistance is open, timely, comprehensive and comparable.

50. G8 members should over time apply the Busan common transparency standards to their respective Development Finance Institutions and international public climate finance flows consistent with the reporting of climate finance under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

 Annex 2 – the G-8 Open Data Charter

 The text:

 Annex 2

 G8 Open Data Charter


1. The world is witnessing the growth of a global movement facilitated by technology and social media and fuelled by information – one that contains enormous potential to create more accountable, efficient, responsive, and effective governments and businesses, and to spur economic growth.

Open data sit at the heart of this global movement.

2. Access to data allows individuals and organisations to develop new insights and innovations that can improve the lives of others and help to improve the flow of information within and between countries. While governments and businesses collect a wide range of data, they do not always share these data in ways that are easily discoverable, useable, or understandable by the public.

This is a missed opportunity.

3. Today, people expect to be able to access information and services electronically when and how they want. Increasingly, this is true of government data as well. We have arrived at a tipping point, heralding a new era in which people can use open data to generate insights, ideas, and services to create a better world for all.

4. Open data can increase transparency about what government and business are doing. Open data also increase awareness about how countries’ natural resources are used, how extractives revenues are spent, and how land is transacted and managed. All of which promotes accountability and good governance, enhances public debate, and helps to combat corruption. Transparent data on G8 development assistance are also essential for accountability.

5. Providing access to government data can empower individuals, the media, civil society, and business to fuel better outcomes in public services such as health, education, public safety, environmental protection, and governance. Open data can do this by:

? showing how and where public money is spent, providing strong incentives for that money to be used most effectively;

? enabling people to make better informed choices about the services they receive and the standards they should expect.

6. Freely-available government data can be used in innovative ways to create useful tools and products that help people navigate modern life more easily. Used in this way, open data are a catalyst for innovation in the private sector, supporting the creation of new markets, businesses, and jobs. Beyond government, these benefits can multiply as more businesses adopt open data practices modelled by government and share their own data with the public.

7. We, the G8, agree that open data are an untapped resource with huge potential to encourage the building of stronger, more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation and prosperity to flourish.

8. We therefore agree to follow a set of principles that will be the foundation for access to, and the release and re-use of, data made available by G8 governments. They are:

– Open Data by Default

– Quantity and Quality

– Useable by All

– Releasing Data for Improved Governance

– Releasing Data for Innovation

9. While working within our national political and legal frameworks, we will implement these principles in accordance with the technical best practises and timeframes set out in our national action plans. G8 members will, by the end of this year, develop action plans, with a view to implementation of the Charter and technical annex by the end of 2015 at the latest. We will review progress at our next meeting in 2014.

10. We also recognise the benefits of open data can and should be enjoyed by citizens of all nations. In the spirit of openness we offer this Open Data Charter for consideration by other countries, multinational organizations and initiatives.

Principle 1: Open Data by Default

11. We recognise that free access to, and subsequent re-use of, open data are of significant value to society and the economy.

12. We agree to orient our governments towards open data by default.

13. We recognise that the term government data is meant in the widest sense possible. This could apply to data owned by national, federal, local, or international government bodies, or by the wider public sector.

14. We recognise that there is national and international legislation, in particular pertaining to intellectual property, personally-identifiable and sensitive information, which must be observed.

15. We will:

? establish an expectation that all government data be published openly by default, as outlined in this Charter, while recognising that there are legitimate reasons why some data cannot be released.

Principle 2: Quality and Quantity

16. We recognise that governments and the public sector hold vast amounts of information that may be of interest to citizens.

17. We also recognise that it may take time to prepare high-quality data, and the importance of consulting with each other and with national, and wider, open data users to identify which data to prioritise for release or improvement.

18. We will:

? release high-quality open data that are timely, comprehensive, and accurate. To the extent possible, data will be in their original, unmodified form and at the finest level of granularity available;

? ensure that information in the data is written in plain, clear language, so that it can be understood by all, though this Charter does not require translation into other languages;

? make sure that data are fully described, so that consumers have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, and security requirements, as well as how to process the data; and

? release data as early as possible, allow users to provide feedback, and then continue to make revisions to ensure the highest standards of open data quality are met.

Principle 3: Usable by All

19. We agree to release data in a way that helps all people to obtain and re-use it.

20. We recognise that open data should be available free of charge in order to encourage their most widespread use.

21. We agree that when open data are released, it should be done without bureaucratic or administrative barriers, such as registration requirements, which can deter people from accessing the data.

22. We will:

? release data in open formats wherever possible, ensuring that the data are available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes; and

? release as much data as possible, and where it is not possible to offer free access at present, promote the benefits and encourage the allowance of free access to data. In many cases this will include providing data in multiple formats, so that they can be processed by computers and understood by people.

Principle 4: Releasing Data for Improved Governance

23. We recognise that the release of open data strengthens our democratic institutions and encourages better policy-making to meets the needs of our citizens. This is true not only in our own countries but across the world.

24. We also recognise that interest in open data is growing in other multilateral organisations and initiatives.

25. We will:

? share technical expertise and experience with each other and with other countries across the world so that everyone can reap the benefits of open data; and

? be transparent about our own data collection, standards, and publishing processes, by documenting all of these related processes online.

Principle 5: Releasing Data for Innovation

26. Recognising the importance of diversity in stimulating creativity and innovation, we agree that the more people and organisations that use our data, the greater the social and economic benefits that will be generated. This is true for both commercial and non-commercial uses.

27. We will:

? work to increase open data literacy and encourage people, such as developers of applications and civil society organisations that work in the field of open data promotion, to unlock the value of open data;

? empower a future generation of data innovators by providing data in machine-readable formats.

G-8 Accountability Addressed

Regarding the way the G-8 operates as an institution, the G-8 communique says:

“We are committed to holding ourselves to account for the promises we have made in an open and transparent way as agreed at L’Aquila in 2009.” Separately issued was the Lough Erne Accountability Report 2013 – “a comprehensive report covering the 56 development commitments that were the subject of the 2010 Comprehensive Accountability Report and the additional commitments Leaders made at Muskoka, Deauville, and Camp David Summits.” Some G-8 oberservers had urged that this be issues before the meeting in draft form.

The statement continues: “We reaffirm our determination to continue working with partner countries and other stakeholders to end extreme poverty, building on our shared experiences and addressing new challenges under country-owned strategies. Transparency and mutual accountability remain cornerstones of our approach.

Other Transparency Steps Taken

“Extractive companies ,” the declaration says, “should report payments to all governments – and governments should publish income from such companies.”  They also said, “Land transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities.’

The leaders pledged to take steps, such as sharing more information, to fight tax evasion.  The leaders committed “to establish the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities as the new global standard.” They agreed to work with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop rapidly a multilateral model which will make it easier for governments to find and punish tax evaders.”

They said developing countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them – and other countries have a duty to help them.

They pledged “to create a common template for multinationals to report to tax authorities where they make their profits and pay their taxes across the world. We will support developing countries to collect the taxes owed them, with access to the global tax information they need.”

Concerning corporate ownership, the declaration says:  “Companies should know who really owns them and tax collectors and law enforcers should be able to obtain this information easily.”  

The statement says: “We agree to publish national Action Plans to make information on who really owns and profits from companies and trusts available to tax collection and law enforcement agencies, for example through central registries of company beneficial ownership.”


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