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Budget: Osborne pledges £10m for ONS data science hub

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne endorses findings of Charles Bean report on upgrading government statistics and pledges £10m to new data science hub for the Office of National Statistics

Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, in his March 2016 Budget statement, endorsed the findings of Charles Bean’s report on bringing government statistics up to speed with the digital economy.

Bean, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, announced the findings of his report into the state of UK economic statistics, under the auspices of the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, on 11 March 2016.

Osborne and the minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock commissioned the “independent review of economic statistics” from Bean in 2015, and the chancellor endorsed all the recommendations in his Budget statement to the House of Commons.

The government will invest over £10m in a data science hub for the Office of National Statistics. “The new hub for data science will maximise the public value of existing and new datasets – so-called ‘big data’ from public and private sources – using cutting-edge techniques,” said the Budget policy statement published on 16 March.

It also said the hub would “improve the Office for National Statistics’ capability to measure changes in the UK’s digital economy and to push the frontiers of economic measurement”.

Welcoming the proposed data hub, UK IT industry body TechUK’s CEO, Julian David, said: “The chancellor’s commitment to adopt all recommendations made by Professor Sir Charles Bean is positive recognition of the importance of the digital industry to the UK economy. Investment of £10m in a new hub for data science will help the public and private sector make better use of data, which has the potential to reduce cost and improve public services.”

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In a possible nod to the Northern Powerhouse that is one of Osborne’s favourite themes, the government will invest £15m in the National Institute for Smart Data Innovation in Newcastle, a project scheduled to begin in 2019. “This new facility will bring together industry, the public sector and universities to create the skills, ideas and resources needed to exploit the opportunities offered by smart data,” said the statement.

Under the heading of “supporting the digital economy”, which the Budget statement said contributed £120bn to GDP in 2014, the government will “provide up to £5m to develop options for an authoritative address register that is open and freely available – making wider use of more precise address data and ensuring it is frequently updated will unlock opportunities for innovation”.

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