NEWS16 July 2019

Government urged to overhaul use of data

Data analytics News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – The government has been urged to use the new national data strategy to overhaul its approach to data and stop ‘choosing ignorance’ – or risk the UK falling behind other countries.

The call to action came in an open letter yesterday ( 15th July) signed by organisations including the Royal Statistical Society, Institute for Government, Open Data Institute, Full Fact and The Policy Institute at King’s College London.

The government is being urged to use the national data strategy, currently under review, to set out its long-term ambitions for how data is used. Without a sustained effort, the UK could lag other countries within the next 10 years, according to the letter, addressed to the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS).

"The national data strategy must go beyond public services," wrote the organisations. "Government’s role is broader than the delivery of public services; it can help shape how data is used across the whole of society through interventions such as research funding, procurement rules, regulatory activities and legislation. The strategy must recognise this and describe how government will make data work for everyone in the UK."

Change must come from ‘the very top’ of government if it is going to meet these aims, the letter warned, saying that currently, conflicting values across different departments mean data is not being used as effectively as it could be to benefit the public.

Instead, the new strategy should place data and evidence at the centre of government, according to the signatories, who urged the government to ‘stop choosing ignorance’ by failing to invest in data that would improve its understanding of policies, public services, the population and the economy.