The Board met to consider:
1.Proposals for two challenges;
a.Open Contracting Data Standard
b.Open standard for international development data
2. The open standards process and Board membership
3. The future role of the Board and open standards in Government
Summary of outcomes:
The Board agreed that
1.The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) must be used in the disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the government's contracting process.
2.The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard must be used for the publishing of government aid and development data.
3. The process of electing new board members and reelection of existing external members should start after the meeting.
4. The Board approved of the changes made to the process and the setting up of the GitHub wiki
Declarations of interest:
The board was invited to declare any interests;
Jeni Tennison declared that she was on the advisory board of the open contracting partnership.
Chris Francis declared that he works for a company that produces software used in the procurement process.
Open Contracting Data Standard
Nicholas Oughtibridge as chair of the Open Standards Panel and Warren Smith the Challenge Owner described the benefits of adopting the OCDS standard. These being to raise the quality of the information published during government procurement in a consistent and machine readable way and increase accountability in the system.
The Chair acknowledged this introduction to the standard and asked the Board for their comments.
The board were told that when the Panel examined the proposal to adopt OCDS the issue of releasing sensitive data (see Panel notes September 2016) was raised. This was however outside the scope of the proposal and covered by existing information legislation.
A Board member noted that OCDS appeared styled to suit the United States and asked how it would match the UK's data needs. The Challenge owner explained that the code matched the requirements of for example Companies House and can associate with other open datasets.
A Board member questioned the possibility of a competing standard being developed in Europe. It was thought that there was unlikely to be an issue of a competing standard from ETSI or CEN-CENELAC that did not allow for translation between the standards.
The Board was pleased with the fit of the standard with registers activities. It was noted that there may be a second challenge around which data may be added to the base but this would be for discussion at a later date.
The Board was assured that the standard matched its definition of an open standard but noted that there was no patent policy published for the organisation. Though for a data standard this was unlikely to be a problem.
The chair was happy to accept this standard for adoption.
Open standard for international development data
The Challenge owner described the IATI standard and its development to meet the need of aid receiving countries to have comprehensive data available. The Board were told that there are around 500 organisations that publish data using the standard and that the standard is incorporated into the UK's aid policy.
The Chair asked how this would make life better. The answer given was that it made available a comparable machine readable data flow that can be used by end users and donors to better understand the various aid activities taking place.
The Chair remarked that it appeared to be the right thing to do, that it was in place and working, then asked the Board for their view of blockers and problems.
It was noted that there is again no patent statement published of the standard and if one was available it would be in line with best practice.
No other issues were brought to the table and the Chair declared that the standard should be adopted.
The Open standards process.
James Stewart explained that in the years since the Board and the open standards process were established the technology and data environment in government has changed. There is a broader community in government that we would now like to engage with. In the months since the last meeting the team has been looking at the process. First to understand how things have been done and then to look at ways to simplify and document the process.
Changes made in the initial stage have been; to combine the Technical and Data Panels into one Standards Panel under joint chairs, updating the documentation and moving the existing Standards Hub into a GitHub wiki.
The next stage would be a more fundamental change, re-thinking how to engage with the community working in the area standards. This would take place after a few months research working with the Board and the community we have around open standards now.
The Board was shown a demonstration of the progress so far in moving the content of the Standards Hub onto GitHub by Terence Eden. The Board was in favour of this change to GitHub though there were some issues noted -
There should be a process to ensure that publications are exported to The National Archive and that the team should consult with John Sheridan to achieve this.
If ownership of GitHub were to change there would be a need to look again for a home for the Hub.
There was a further discussion on how to engage with departments and ensure that they were aware of the open standards work and that their needs were met. This would form part of ongoing user research undertaken by the team.
Engagement ‘should go beyond putting it on the web’
A user need identified in this discussion was for a register of open standards that went beyond that already published on GOV.UK and an explanation of the UK governments definition of open standards to help explain to third parties.
A Board member questioned whether there was a standard that described the Boards definition of an open standard, and if the board could help explain the definition. The Chair answered that there was a policy that defined open standards, and suggested that the best way to explain better would be short videos rather than a document.
Action 1: The Open Standards team to engage with John Sheridan to ensure they meet archival requirements for the new Hub.
Action 2: Open standards team to produce an explanation of open standards as defined in the policy document to share with a wider audience.
Over the last two years a number of Board members have left and the term for external members (non civil servants) has passed. This has left the Board with vacancies and gaps in expertise that need to be filled.
The membership of external Board members is now for renewal and the team will start the process of sending letters inviting existing members to rejoin. The process of advertising for and electing new members should be carried out over the next few months. This it was thought should be by both a targeted approach and a general advertising drive.
The board noted that diversity must be addressed by any recruitment process.
The board was keen for their function to go beyond approving the recommendations from the Panel and would prefer an active role in the promotion and development of standards in government. This it was explained was part of the user research around the process and why the recruitment of new members had not yet started. The views of the current board should be taken into consideration.
Action 3: Send letters to external members inviting them to rejoin (open standards team)
Action 4: Start recruitment process (open standards team)
Action 5: Open standards team to meet with members individually as part of user research.
Action 6: Share results of user research and the plan for the future of the Board with the members when available
Liam Maxwell Chair
Daniel Appelquist Samsung Research UK
Paul Downey GDS
Adrian Hepworth ATOS (phone)
Chris Francis SAP
Matthew Dovey Jisc
Jeni Tennison ODI
James Stewart GDS
Nicholas Oughtibridge HSCIC
John Adams DfID (phone)
Warren Smith GDS (phone)
Terence Eden GDS
Lawrence Greenwood GDS
Emma Pearce GDS
John Sheridan The National Archives