One step closer to open data

Many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still

Elisabeth DaviesBack in April I wrote a blog highlighting the importance of open data and commending the Approved Regulators for agreeing to put a core and reusable set of minimum data in the public domain. One of the risks was always going to be that it’s one thing to commit in principle, but quite another to deliver in reality.  Was this where we were going to find out a lot more about IT systems? Or find ourselves talking timescales edging towards 2020?

There may have been some wavering but we’re pleased to see some real progress now starting to happen. Here’s an update.

The CLC has already published a spreadsheet on their website – the first legal regulator to do so – and they should be commended for doing this. This morning the Legal Ombudsman has made its ombudsman decisions available in a CSV file. This feels like a really significant step which will allow comparison websites to provide quality of service information alongside the core regulatory data.

In the last few weeks we’ve also had a written commitment from the SRA to start providing information to comparison websites by this Christmas, and the development of a new online register of their regulated community during 2015. IPReg has also made a written commitment to publish information in a reusable form.

Not every regulator is fully on board yet, but this progress is really positive and there’s scope to build on it in the future, with talk of publishing all the information in one place, for example on the Legal Choices website.

The quest for open data has been at the heart of the Panel’s policies since 2011. Transparency is absolutely essential for consumers if they’re going to be able to make informed choices, protect themselves from harm and have confidence in the regulators. We have consistently targeted this important issue, pushing it up the policy agenda of both the regulators and the LSB. This last year has been very much a joint effort with the LSB in ensuring open data is recognised as a regulatory priority.

I’m not sure if the progress is a testament to the commitment of the Regulators, the power of persuasion, or the Panel refusing to let this go. I imagine the answer is different for each of the Regulators and possibly involves a bit of all three. What’s significant is that progress has and is now being made and we recognise and rate this. That progress may not have always been at the pace we would like but we’re getting there and the movement and momentum is now undeniable. In reflecting on the last 3 years the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote springs to mind “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”