Embedding best practice
It is common for UK legislation to contain within it a statutory duty to publish defined items of information. These references vary widely from instructions to publish in specific journals such as the London Gazette through to simple instructions that something must be produced. Publishing technology has overtaken these instructions in legislation. Just as the phrase ‘in writing’ has been overtaken. There is an opportunity to modernise the way information is published which would both be more cost-effective and allow the information to be more easily used across multiple channels, thereby increasing the likelihood of it reaching relevant audiences.
The Taskforce has been pleased to see OPSI put the London Gazette online with sophisticated data feeds making information published there accessible to a far wider audience than ever before. We understand that this work is a world leading demonstration of publishing for the semantic web by a government. We have also looked at the way in which government publicises its job vacancies as an example of an area which could benefit from a smart application of new technology. We believe that OPSI, working with COI is well placed to issue guidance on best practice for the evolving menu of choices that public bodies can use for publishing public information.
Where there is a statutory requirement to publish ‘notices’ or other information we consider that it would always have been Parliament’s intent to ensure that the information reached all the relevant people. So, in addition, if necessary, to publishing in the form specified by statute, public bodies should publish the same information on the internet in a manner specified by The National Archives (OPSI) so that it is searchable, scrapable, and provides a structured feed. Many bodies may find it cost-effective to use the London Gazette service.