Government publishes National Data Strategy

The government has launched a National Data Strategy and set out the action it will take to support the use of data in the UK.

The new strategy aims to put data at the heart of the country’s recovery from the pandemic, so companies and organisations can use it to drive digital transformation, innovate and boost growth across the economy.

The strategy, which lays out five priority ‘missions’ the government must take to capitalise on the opportunities data offers, is a central part of wider ambitions for a fast-growing digital sector in the UK. It includes:

• Plans for 500 analysts to be trained up in data and data science across the public sector by 2021.
• Plans for a new government chief data officer to lead a whole-government approach to transforming government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services.
• The introduction of primary legislation to boost participation in smart data initiatives, which can give people the power to use their own data to find better tariffs in areas such as telecoms, energy and pensions.
• A new £2.6 million project to address current barriers to data sharing and support innovation to detect online harms.

The government is also announcing up to 10 new Innovation Fellowships to support the digital transformation across government. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to work closely with the No. 10 Data Science team and Government Digital Service (GDS) networks.

A statement explained that data-enabled UK service exports were estimated to be £243 billion in 2019 – around three quarters of total service exports. Globally, the UK now sits behind only the US and China in terms of venture capital investment into the technology sector.

The strategy commits the government to develop a clear policy framework to determine what interventions are needed to unlock the value of data across the economy and help propel the UK forward in the recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of his speech at London Tech Week’s Global Leaders Innovation Summit, digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our response to Coronavirus has shown just how much we can achieve when we can share high-quality data quickly, efficiently and ethically – I don’t intend to let that lesson go to waste.

“Our new National Data Strategy will maintain the high watermark of data use set during the pandemic - freeing up businesses, government and organisations to innovate, experiment and drive a new era of growth.”

The new strategy proposes an overhaul in the use of data across the public sector and the government will launch a programme of work to transform the way data is managed, used and shared internally and with wider public sectors organisations, to create an ethical, joined up and interoperable data infrastructure.

The promise to train 500 analysts in data and data science across the public sector by 2021 will be carried out through the Data Science Campus at the Office for National Statistics, the Government Analysis Function, and the GDS.

Meanwhile, the new chief data officer will lead the GDS’ digital, data and technology function. They will be responsible for shaping and delivering the government’s innovation and transformation strategies to improve capability and ensure the government can better leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services.

The move comes after plans were announced last month for a new chief digital officer.

The government also promised to explore new ways to teach undergraduate students data skills that complement the existing current maths and computing curriculums, as well as developing T-Levels which include qualifications on digital skills.

And as for the £2.6 million project, this will model how improved systems for classification and sharing of data could support a competitive commercial market in tools able to detect online harms such as cyber bullying, harassment or suicide ideation.

Through this programme, the government will review and upgrade the data standards and systems that underpin the monitoring and reporting of online harms such as child sexual abuse, hate speech and self-harm and suicide ideation.

Sue Daley, associate director for technology and innovation at techUK, said that a national data vision and strategy for realising the full economic and social value of data is vital to driving social good, innovation, competition, economic growth, productivity and job creation.

“The consultation on the National Data Strategy announced today is key to finding the right way forward for industry and citizens and techUK stands ready to help turn the strategy into a reality – now is the time to get to work to build and realise the UK’s data-driven future," she added.

The consultation aims to shape the core principles of the strategy, ambitions for the use of data across the economy, and policy proposals.

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