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Government response to National Data Strategy consultation depicts data as’asset, not threat’

Government responds to consultation with a promise of delivery, putting an emphasis on data as an asset, not a threat, and finding respondents keen on levelling up By Brian McKenna, Business Applications Editor Published: 18 May 2021 11:55 The government has responded to its National Data Strategy consultation by putting an emphasis on “data as…

Government responds to consultation with a guarantee of delivery, putting an emphasis on data as an asset, not a risk, and finding economists keen on levelling up

Brian McKenna


Released: 18 May 2021 11: 55

The government has reacted to its National Data Strategy consultation by putting an emphasis on”data as an asset” rather than a”threat to be managed”, and pledging delivery as the following step.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) originally printed guidance for the plan in July 2019 — if Theresa May was prime minister. It has preceded and outlasted the tenure of her successor’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, who is well known as a data enthusiast.

In September 2020, the strategy has been published, but as a work in progress, dependent upon additional consulation.

The brand new document, published now, conveys government feedback on consultation undertaken between 9 September and 9 December 2020, received in the form of written responses to queries from 282 sources, including IT providers.

The new record says the September 2020 document”brought together our ambitions for data within a single, coherent narrative”, adding:”Published as a consultation, the National Data Strategy was not intended as the final answer, but as part of a conversation about how we approach and use data in the UK.”

The plan has four columns, clarified in September and re-described today as: info bases, data skills, data availability and responsible data use. Above the columns have been”five missions” –“to unlock the value of data held across the economy, secure a pro-growth and trusted data regime, transform government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services, ensure the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data use relies, and champion the international flow of data”.

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for DCMS, writes in the foreword to the new document:”Having left the European Union, we can capitalise on the UK’s independent status and repatriated powers in pursuit of the data opportunity. That includes having the freedom to strike our own international data partnerships with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and I will shortly announce our priority countries for those data adequacy agreements.

“This document sets out in more detail our plans to use the frame outlined in the National Data Strategy to provide this bold new approach, in such a manner that builds public trust and makes sure that the chances from better information use work for everyone, everywhere. Our newest National Data Strategy Forum will ensure that a diverse selection of perspectives continue to inform the plan’s implementation.”

The document says:”Many respondents [to the government’s survey questions]… recognized the need to rebalance the narrative on data usage. This means moving away from considering data use primarily as a threat to be managed, and rather recognising information as an asset which, used responsibly, can provide public and economic benefits across the UK.”

Levelling up

It interprets respondents as keen on the government’s”levelling up” agenda, saying:”Respondents recognized an opportunity for the National Data Strategy to encourage all regions of the UK to accelerate. Some respondents described how better data accessibility at the local level could drive innovation, productivity benefits and public service improvements across all sections of the UK, while some noted how data can be used to appraise levelling-up initiatives.”

It also highlights the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s report on local government use of data during the pandemic as showing that”successful data-sharing can support local-level public service improvements”.

In policy terms, the document draws attention to an intention to consider”that the function of data intermediaries in encouraging accountable data-sharing, and how government can intervene to encourage their adoption, building on the Ada Lovelace Institute and AI Council joint report, Legal mechanisms for data stewardship“.

It adds:”As a part of this, we’ll encourage the Open Data Institute‘s work on information institutions — organisations whose purpose entails stewarding data on behalf of other people — to create an environment which supports present data associations in the general public, private and third sectors and is conducive to innovation about new kinds of information intermediaries such as data trusts and data cooperatives.”

The consultation also asked for views on a bigger future role for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

The government’s response indicates changes to come:”Following two and half years of successful performance, we’re in the process of recruiting for a new seat and refreshed board, to direct the Centre in another stage. We’ll announce that the new leadership of the Centre in due course, alongside further detail about the way the CDEI will continue to encourage the administration’s delivery of the National Data Strategy priorities later on .”

The document also notes:”Respondents recommended sharpening the regime’s focus on results and risks, instead of burdensome paperwork that may misdirect resources away from activities that maintain personal information safe. They underlined the need for a flexible regime which keeps pace with technological change, as well as the importance of clear, more specific guidance or rules to reduce uncertainty and vagueness.”

In relation to the international flow of data, the document says:”The US and EU were identified as priority countries with whom to procure adequacy arrangements. Japan, South Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were also commonly cited, although several respondents called upon the UK to research potential arrangements with emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East, South A

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