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UK government publishes guidance for national data strategy

The ongoing call from the government for evidence will be followed by a full consultation in the autumn with a view to publish the final data strategy plan in 2020

The UK government has published guidance for the national data strategy (NDS), including what has been done so far and main objectives for the months ahead.

The plan, aimed at creating a vision to underpin the country’s ambitions to build a data-driven economy, will include ensuring skills so that individuals can make life and work decisions based on high-quality data.

According to the guidance on the NDS, the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) outlines the approach used so far, which is based on a two-phased consultation focused on evidence building, stakeholder engagement and testing the strategic framework.

The initial phase was launched in June 2019, with a call for evidence based on the pillars of people, economy and government, with a series of roundtables – with academia, public and private sector as well as bodies representing citizens and smaller businesses – being held around those themes.

The DCMS will then open a full consultation, open to everyone, in the autumn of 2019. The goal, the department said, is to deliver the final strategy and a partnership action plan in 2020.

In parallel to the open call for evidence, there are various other initiatives around data under way in central government towards supporting the creation of the NDS.

An example is a report on smart data launched by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in June 2019 to consider how development of data-driven technologies can be accelerated to improve consumer outcomes and boost business competition.

A thought paper to identify where and how government departments can use data to prevent and identify fraud was also released by the Cabinet Office in June.

But there are challenges around making the data strategy work. Based on the current landscape across government, the National Audit Office (NAO) launched a report outlining a series of issues, along with recommendations to solve them.

According to the NAO, the three areas that need to be addressed to achieve success are strategy and leadership, management infrastructure, and broader enablers to make better use of data.

The report also noted that clear leadership and coordination is needed, adding that there is a lack of leadership for data in government, which has failed to appoint a chief data officer (CDO) despite committing to do so in 2017.

“There are some early signs that the situation is improving, but unless government uses the data strategy to push a sea change in strategy and leadership, it will not get the right processes, systems and conditions in place to succeed, and this strategy will be yet another missed opportunity,” the report said.

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