Sharing is daring: why joined-up use of data is so challenging for government – and how to get better at it

By on 18/04/2023 | Updated on 18/04/2023
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By 2025, all critical data assets will be available for use across the UK government. That is the goal set by ministers, who recognise that while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation, data sharing capability remains woefully lacking. At a Global Government Forum webinar, experts discussed how to overcome the barriers

The UK government’s own assessment of its data-exchange capabilities is blunt. Data quality, it argues, is “inconsistent and frequently poor” while effective data sharing between departments is “limited”.

There is hope that this will change, however. By giving more departments access to the same stores of data and creating a data marketplace to share standards and governance, the government believes it can “rival best practice across public and private sectors”.

During a webinar titled Data mine: how can government get better at sharing information, expert panellists highlighted the barriers and swapped best practice on data sharing, setting out the steps the UK government would need to take to meet its goals.

Here we present the best bits of the conversation, with accompanying clips.

Gina Gill, chief digital and information officer of the Ministry of Justice’s Chief Operating Officer Group, outlined the primary reason her department struggles with data sharing.

Rachel Graham, chief digital and information officer at The Planning Inspectorate, described her organisation’s use of an “operational data warehouse” to share and exchange data across entities in a standardised format.

Graham also highlighted the importance of culture change as a primary means of breaking down organisational silos.

Dominic Hale, deputy director & head of strategy at the Office for National Statistics’ Integrated Data Service, expanding on Graham’s point about culture, explained how the Integrated Data Service had helped him and his colleagues understand and tackle cultural resistance to data sharing.

Steve Burgess, digital & analytics director, public sector at SAS UK – the webinar’s knowledge partner – focused on the EU and the UK’s contrasting approaches to efficient data sharing. He prefers the EU’s approach, he said, since this prioritises security over centralisation of data, ensuring that what is shared is protected from “multiple attack vectors” which the UK is more exposed to.

The UK doesn’t have a digital ID platform, and this remains a significant barrier to efficient data sharing. Burgess explained why this, as well as other challenges, constitutes a threat to national security and puts the UK at a severe strategic disadvantage in the face of future crises.

Speaking from a healthcare perspective, Claire Harrison, chief technology officer, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Department of Health and Social Care, covered the critical role data sharing plays in predicting and identifying problems with medical products, and how this can prevent serious harms to the public.

To learn all this and more, you can watch the full Data mine: how can government get better at sharing information webinar on our dedicated events page. The webinar, hosted by Global Government Forum with knowledge partner SAS, was held on 30 March 2023.

Want to write for GGF? We are always looking to hear from public and civil servants on the latest developments in their organisation – please get in touch below or email [email protected]

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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