High standards: a common language for public data

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
February 23, 2021
Digital & technology

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Many of the new opportunities opened up by data technologies depend on better sharing and exchange of data – but currently, many departmental systems speak different languages. Even within one organisation, datasets may for example be stored in various formats, held in incompatible systems, maintained to variable quality standards, and compiled using different definitions. Public servants hold huge data assets; but until these datasets can be linked together, much of their potential value cannot be realised.

Many of the answers lie in implementing common data standards – but this throws up a set of new challenges. How should standards be decided and introduced? How can departments be encouraged to adopt them, while retaining the autonomy to focus resources on their top policy goals? And who should be responsible for overseeing delivery and monitoring progress?

At this GGF webinar, civil service leaders from around the world discussed how best to introduce and promote common data standards – supporting better analysis and policymaking, while unlocking much more rapid progress towards truly digital, user-focused service delivery.


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Justin Marsico, Chief Data Officer, Bureau of the Fiscal Service, Treasury Department, USA

Justin Marsico is the chief data officer for the Fiscal Service, where he is working to modernize the bureau’s management of data, including data governance and analytics. Justin also oversees the Fiscal Service’s provision of data to the public, including on USAspending.gov. In a previous role at Fiscal, Justin created the federal spending website called the Data Lab, as well as a new team dedicated to conducting enterprise-wide analytics. Before Justin joined the Fiscal Service, he served as a senior advisor in Inspector General’s office at the Department of Commerce, where he investigated ethics matters and employee misconduct. In addition, Justin worked as an analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and previously at Treasury as an international economist. Justin holds Masters Degrees from the University of Michigan in applied economics and public policy.

Nadun Muthukumarana, Data Analytics Partner, Deloitte

Nadun has over 24 years’ experience in innovating and delivering complex data analytics and technology transformation to national and global clients. At Deloitte, he is the Lead Partner for Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Public & Transportation sectors. He has developed industry scale AI solutions that are delivering unprecedented gains in customer service delivery, operational planning, execution and asset management. Nadun is a thought leader in explainable AI, Data Privacy, Ethics and Open Data. He runs the Deloitte Analytics Labs, an innovation incubator that specialises in the development of products & services which uniquely combines AI with simulation technologies. As a Respect and Inclusion Advisory Partner, he also leads initiatives to improve inclusivity in the workplace. Nadun is the President of the Management Consultancies Association (MCA).

Sue Bateman, Deputy Director Data and Innovation, Government Digital Service, United Kingdom

Sue Bateman leads the Data and Innovation team in the Government Digital Service, which supports public sector organisations to make greater use of emerging technologies to improve our public services and policy making. This includes responsibility for the Data Standards Authority and initiatives to promote ethical use of data, data sharing, open data and data capability.

She previously spent a number of years working on IT and data policy and strategy, including leading the international collaboration on the G8 Open Data Charter and establishing the UK government data science programme and partnership.

Tom Dufour, Director General, Strategic Data Management Branch, Statistics Canada

Tom Dufour is the Director General of Statistics Canada’s Strategic Data Management Branch which includes the Office of Privacy Management and Information Coordination, the Statistical Geomatics Center, Data Stewardship Division, and Data Integration Infrastructure Division. He has worked in a number of areas at Statistics Canada for over 29 years including a number of social statistics programs, and most recently, in the Macroeconomic Accounts.

Sigrit Siht, Director of Data Policy, Department of State Information Systems, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Estonia

Sigrit Siht is working as a Data Policy Director in the Department of State Information Systems at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in Estonia. Her main focus is on open data and everything involved with that. Sigrit has a Master’s degree from the School of Information Technologies at the Tallinn University of Technology and she has also studied in both Italy and Germany focusing on Smart City solutions and data management.