Public services and the new age of data

 at Civil Service Quaterly: “Government holds massive amounts of data. The potential in that data for transforming the way government makes policy and delivers public services is equally huge. So, getting data right is the next phase of public service reform. And the UK Government has a strong foundation on which to build this future.

Public services have a long and proud relationship with data. In 1858, more than 50 years before the creation of the Cabinet Office, Florence Nightingale produced her famous ‘Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the east’ during the Crimean War. The modern era of statistics in government was born at the height of the Second World War with the creation of the Central Statistical Office in 1941.

How data can help

However, the huge advances we’ve seen in technology mean there are significant new opportunities to use data to improve public services. It can help us:

  • understand what works and what doesn’t, through data science techniques, so we can make better decisions: improving the way government works and saving money
  • change the way that citizens interact with government through new better digital services built on reliable data;.
  • boost the UK economy by opening and sharing better quality data, in a secure and sensitive way, to stimulate new data-based businesses
  • demonstrate a trustworthy approach to data, so citizens know more about the information held about them and how and why it’s being used

In 2011 the Government embarked upon a radical improvement in its digital capability with the creation of the Government Digital Service, and over the last few years we have seen a similar revolution begin on data. Although there is much more to do, in areas like open data, the UK is already seen as world-leading.

…But if government is going to seize this opportunity, it needs to make some changes in:

  • infrastructure – data is too often hard to find, hard to access, and hard to work with; so government is introducing developer-friendly open registers of trusted core data, such as countries and local authorities, and better tools to find and access personal data where appropriate through APIs for transformative digital services;
  • approach – we need the right policies in place to enable us to get the most out of data for citizens and ensure we’re acting appropriately; and the introduction of new legislation on data access will ensure government is doing the right thing – for example, through the data science code of ethics;
  • data science skills – those working in government need the skills to be confident with data; that means recruiting more data scientists, developing data science skills across government, and using those skills on transformative projects….(More)”.