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Transforming public services through transparency

January 14, 2010

Transparency and opening up data – the massive, disruptive impact of empowered consumers

Situation: public services are too often expensive, inefficient, of low-quality and

unresponsive to the needs of the user.

Problem: public-sector organisations themselves have persistently failed to improve;

trying to solve these issues with more government, targets and regulation is part of the

problem, not the answer.

Solution: giving users full, accessible, meaningful information about public services –

including the comments and assessment of their peers – will create an informed consumer,

unlocking unstoppable “society pressure” and market-forces that will transform public


An effective market requires informed consumers who not only have a choice of service

providers, but are also able to access appropriate, meaningful, relevant information to

inform their decision-making. When both these aspects are combined there is consistent,

user-driven pressure on providers to continually improve: to provide better services at

lower cost.

Public services have to date not been subject to such pressures. Users are uninformed,

and services are not exposed to the forces required for continuous improvement and cost-

reduction. As a result they all too often fail to meet the needs of the consumer, and at

worse – as recent disasters in NHS hospitals illustrate – can deliver services which are not

only of low quality and inefficient, but are overtly dangerous.

The single greatest influencer on the decisions and choices users make about services is

the opinion and recommendation of their peers. Harnessing the wisdom, experience and

insights of service-users and making this fully, transparently available to both the public

and providers of services will empower consumers in a uniquely powerful way. Public

services will be transformed as a direct result of, and in line with, the needs and priorities

of those paying for the services – the public.

More reading “Which Doctor”

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