Book News: July 26th, 2007

By Ed Mayo and Tom SteinbergThis independent review published by the Cabinet Office describes the opportunities to develop the use of citizen and state-generated information in the UK. This public sector information includes maps, heart surgery mortality statistics and timetables. In the past, only large companies, government or universities were able to re-use and recombine information. Now, the ability to mix and ‘mash’ data is far more widely available.

Examples of information available for use include medical studies of breast cancer and HIV patients which allow participants in online communities to understand their condition better and generally show a greater ability to cope. Studies of ‘wired’ local communities demonstrate that there are more neighbours who know the names of other people on their street. Parenting websites like Netmums operate as an online community, with 275,000 users providing advice to prospective and current parents. The largest websites are now often those that bring together information created by the people who use them. The proportion of people using such sites to help themselves and others is now on a par with the friendly societies and mutuals of the nineteenth century.

The review sets out recommendations including the Minister for the Cabinet Office reporting on departments’ implementation plans by December 2007

The review is available at: