Can government stop losing its mind?

Report by Gavin Starks: “Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does it remember too much and so see too many reasons why anything new is bound to fail?

While we are at the beginnings of a data revolution, we are also at a point where the deluge of data is creating the potential for an ‘information collapse’ in complex administrations: structured information and knowledge is lost in the noise or, worse, misinformation rises as fact.

There are many reasons for this: the technical design of systems, turnover of people, and contracting out. Information is stored in silos and often guarded jealously. Cultural and process issues lead to poor use of technologies. Knowledge is both formal (codified) and informal (held in people’s brains). The greatest value will be unlocked by combining these with existing and emerging tools.

This report sets out how the public sector could benefit from a federated, data-driven approach: one that provides greater power to its leaders, benefits its participants and users, and improves performance through better use of, and structured access to, data.

The report explores examples from the Open Data Institute, Open Banking Standard, BBC Archives, Ministry of Justice, NHS Blood and Transplant, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and Ministry of Defence.


  1. Design for open; build for search
  2. Build reciprocity into data supply chains
  3. Develop data ethics standards that can evolve at pace
  4. Create a Digital Audit Office
  5. Develop and value a culture of network thinking

To shorten the path between innovation and policy in a way that is repeatable and scalable, the report proposes six areas of focus be considered in any implementation design.

  1. Policy Providing strategic leadership and governance; framing and analysing economic, legal and regulatory impacts (e.g. GDPR, data ethics, security) and highlighting opportunities and threats.
  2. Culture Creating compelling peer, press and public communication and engagement that both address concerns and inspire people to engage in the solutions.
  3. Making Commissioning startups, running innovation competitions and programmes to create practice-based evidence that illustrates the challenges and business opportunities.
  4. Learning Creating training materials that aid implementation and defining evidence-based sustainable business models that are anchored around user-needs.
  5. Standards Defining common human and machine processes that enable both repeatability and scale within commercial and non-commercial environments.
  6. Infrastructure Defining and framing how people and machines will use data, algorithms and open APIs to create sustainable impact….(More)”.