Openness is key to UK and Scottish government responses to COVID-19

April 1, 2020




Openness and transparency are key to positive government responses to the COVID-19 crisis, the Open Knowledge Foundation has said.

The global campaigners for openness said the open sharing of data will help ensure public trust, encourage the restoration of public confidence in experts in the era of populism and fake news, and ultimately help lead to a vaccine to defeat the virus.

The Open Knowledge Foundation has urged both the UK and Scottish Governments to avoid measures which do not promote openness during the national emergency.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has stressed it is vital to ‘ensure the continuity of key statistical compilation activities and the continued availability of data to inform emergency mitigation actions by governments and all sectors of society’.

  • In Scotland, there have been attempts by the Scottish Government to delay Freedom of Information response times – thought to be the first country in the world to consider such steps. The Open Knowledge Foundation has said maintaining public scrutiny is the best way to build public trust.
  • In England, the UK Government is preparing to release an app which alerts people if they come too close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The Open Knowledge Foundation has said there must be clear, regular communication about this project to build public trust, and human rights must be protected.
  • In Brazil, the Ministry of Health failed to publish complete health data about the spread of the coronavirus. The Open Knowledge Foundation’s Brazilian chapter led a legal challenge and more open data will now be published to help the global fight against COVID-19.
  • In Hungary, an emergency law to deal with the coronavirus crisis has been compared to the suspension of parliamentary democracy in the country. The Open Knowledge Foundation believes protecting parliamentary democracy is more important than ever at this time.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said: “Openness and transparency are key to positive government responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Governments across the world must take emergency measures, and the public is ready and willing to accept this, but the best way to do this is to be open with the public - building and maintaining trust.

“Open data is a force for good in these troubled times – not least because this will pave the way to a vaccine and lead to the restoration of confidence in experts.

“Public trust will be built by ensuring the continued availability of statistics and data, not by restricting Freedom of Information laws or failing to publish all data.

“There is a huge amount of goodwill towards politicians during this crisis and this can be maintained by being open with the public.”







UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs:

Contact: Alan Roden at or +44 (0)7753 904 531


Our vision is for a future that is fair, free and open. Our mission is to create a more open world – a world where all non-personal information is open, free for everyone to use, build on and share; and creators and innovators are fairly recognised and rewarded.

Open knowledge is any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute without any legal, technological or social restriction.

Through teaching, creating and campaigning, we are working for a fair, free and open future for all. For over a decade, we have pioneered openness and data literacy in new areas using technology, training, policy advice and research.

Read more here:

The Open Knowledge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation. It is incorporated in England & Wales as a company limited by guarantee, with company number 05133759. Registered office address: 86 - 90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE, UK.

Don't miss
a thing

Stay on top of what's happening in the
#OpenMovement around the world.
(We will never spam you!)