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Or Lenchner: The UK Government’s Data Opportunity

By Or Lenchner, CEO, Luminati Networks

Data has become the most valuable commodity for the world’s leading businesses and sits right at the heart of innovation across multiple industries. However, it isn’t just the private sector that can benefit from the insights that large-scale data collection can provide. Data is also providing the public sector with integral insights, allowing for the creation of effective strategies. With the UK Government’s National Data Strategy (NDS) moving closer, it is clear that now is the time for data to drive the country forwards as it breaks away from the EU at the end of 2020.

The public sector is typically more familiar with making decisions based on projections and forecasts as opposed to near-live insights. This is why the NDS is so critical for future success. Without the ability to collect and analyse data, government departments are traditionally left looking backwards at what has happened in the past and, simultaneously, trying to predict the future or acting on out-of-date trends. In a world where data is being created by our every action, it simply isn’t effective for governments to continue in this fashion. That is why the NDS is so important for the economic and digital growth in the UK.

As part of the NDS plans, which will include the creation of a new Chief Data Officer role, the UK aims to provide coherence and impetus to the wide range of data-led work across government departments. Having a unified policy when it comes to data is crucial for success. It also prevents certain departments, market sectors and organisations from being left behind or working in silos. With the NDS, there will be a comprehensive overview on the ways the public and private sectors can leverage data.

 The current state of play

The power of large-scale data collection and analysis (online data included) can already be seen with the UK Government through the work of the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Using various sources, the ONS regularly collects data to publish the latest insights on the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. Statistics generated typically power government policy and decision-making, highlighting the impact of data insights.

However, not all government departments are so far advanced when it comes to data. We recently saw this with researchers claiming that the progress of the HM Courts & Tribunals Services’ data collection on vulnerable users of online courts was “disappointing”. This is a clear focus when it comes to court reforms, and it’s evident that further support is required to collect the required data needed to succeed. Failure to do so is holding back progression as well as greater socio-economic equality and must be a key consideration for the Ministry of Justice.

Data-driven training for high-quality data

It’s clear that there is still a long way to go for the government when it comes to collecting and utilising data, but the NDS is an important first step. Part of the mission statement of the NDS is for businesses and organisations to trust the data ecosystem and ensure that they are sufficiently skilled to operate effectively within it. This highlights the need for training and skill-sharing to be a key part of any plans moving forwards.

For the UK to thrive, the current and next generation of data specialists need to be given the highest level of training and tools that are required to collect the data in a responsible manner.  After all, this data will shape all of our futures.  We are all fully aware of the power that data carries, our personal data included. Therefore, implementing the right kind of technology and best practices is key to abiding by emerging data privacy regulations as well as remaining on the ethical side of the road. This includes what we all know as openly available online data collection. What is in the public domain must also be treated with great responsibility and transparency.

As the UK embarks on a new future away from the EU in 2021, it’s been stated that data, and especially the NDS, will enable the UK to thrive. That is why it is crucial for the NDS and its data collection efforts to be a success. By acting now, the UK will futureproof its processes and reap the rewards provided by cross-sector data collection in years to come.