Data sharing during coronavirus: lessons for government

Report by Gavin Freeguard and Paul Shepley: “This report synthesises the lessons from six case studies and other research on government data sharing during the pandemic. It finds that current legislation, such as the Digital Economy Act and UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), does not constitute a barrier to data sharing and that while technical barriers – incompatible IT systems, for example – can slow data sharing, they do not prevent it. 

Instead, the pandemic forced changes to standard working practice that enabled new data sharing agreements to be created quickly. This report focuses on what these changes were and how they can lead to improvements in future practice.

The report recommends: 

  • The government should retain data protection officers and data protection impact assessments within the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, and consider strengthening provisions around citizen engagement and how to ensure data flows during emergency response.
  • The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities should consult on how to improve working around data between central and local government in England. This should include the role of the proposed Office for Local Government, data skills and capabilities at the local level, reform of the Single Data List and the creation of a data brokering function to facilitate two-way data sharing between national and local government.
  • The Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) should create a data sharing ‘playbook’ to support public servants building new services founded on data. The playbook should contain templates for standard documents, links to relevant legislation and codes of practice (like those from the Information Commissioner’s Office), guidance on public engagement and case studies covering who to engage and when whilst setting up a new service.
  • The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, working with CDDO, should take the lead on guidance and resources on how to engage the public at every stage of data sharing…(More)”.