Saturday, 1 June 2013

Shakespeare gives evidence

After five posts on Stephan Shakespeare's An Independent Review of Public Sector Information you might think we'd finished.

Not a bit of it.

We've only just got to the Introduction (pp.19-20).

"The review", he tells us there, ...
... will consider the current and anticipated future needs for Government given the current policy objectives across departments and wider public sector bodies as well as the opportunities and challenges presented by rapidly developing technology in the area.
That's false.

Nowhere in its 71 pages does the review tell us what the opportunities are, as noted, and nowhere do we discover what this "rapidly developing technology" is.

It's been a busy old time for Shakespeare. He's been talking to the citizens and to the experts:
There have been breakfast seminars, larger events with big businesses, SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and start-ups. I have also interviewed individual experts, activists and practitioners.
All those full English breakfasts. Also small and medium-sized English breakfasts. And more – tireless pollster that he is, Shakespeare, the founder of YouGov, tells us that ...
... my own evidence has come from the two waves of surveys, each with simple, defined multi-option questions, with every question accompanied by an open comment box. The first wave was exploratory, helping to develop ideas; the second wave, confirmatory, seeking support for my broad recommendations ...
What do these two-wave surveys reveal?

We find out in the Evidence section of his review (pp.21-7):
70% ... of total respondents think that we should make public all that we can about our health care system ...
Too bad on the other 30%, you may say, the majority has spoken and the majority wants everyone's medical records to be made available for research.

Not so fast.

Your confidence may be partially deflated when you learn that Shakespeare's surveys were conducted on two groups of people. In one of them, 18% of respondents said they were "highly informed" on data issues and in the other group that figure was 4%. The survey finding above could legitimately be re-stated as follows:
Between 82% and 96% of people asked said they didn't know what they were talking about but nevertheless 70% of them think that we should make public all that we can about our health care system so we should.
And that, citizens, is Shakespeare's contribution to the review of PSI, public sector information.

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