How the UK can direct reform to a world-leading data economy
In a push to establish the UK as a world-leading data economy that balances innovation with public trust, the UK Government is in the process of developing a framework for a National Data Strategy. This was open to consultation response in 2020. Both Kainos and Faculty strongly agree that a national data strategy is vital in order to catalyse national productivity, improve public services and assist our collective recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
Data as the lifeblood of digitisation
Data has always been central to the effective operation and governance of the economy and society, but it has rarely been treated as a discrete topic of interest to policymakers, businesses, and citizens. Yet in summer 2020, as one isolated example, there were crowds on a British street shouting “Death to the Algorithm” in the context of A-Level exam results. Following the Black Lives Matter protests, the use of facial algorithms has also been brought to the public fore. Digitisation is now moving the conversation on data and its use from the edges of politics and the economy to the centre.
The UK’s National Data Strategy is a timely effort to focus and direct reform.
We wholeheartedly welcomed the National Data Strategy consultation, which provided the UK with the opportunity to adjust and clarify rights and responsibilities around data, assure the trustworthiness and legitimacy of data use, and earn a high return on its investment in our national data infrastructure. This “Data Transformation” called for by the National Data Strategy will extend the Digital Transformation revolution initiated by the UK government in 2010 - and the gains are potentially bigger. Providing clear guidelines and protections around the use of data will both protect citizens and allow the UK to use data to its full potential. If we get these reforms right, we will not only increase productivity, create jobs, and improve public services, the UK will also lead the world in having done so.
We believe this “Data Transformation” can best be achieved through six actions:
- Leading by example for all UK sectors, not just defining policy
UK Government-led digital transformation with the Government Digital Service’s focus on delivery. As a result, the public sector became an exemplar for the private sector. This is needed again to transform how government departments share their data to drive the data economy. Government will set precedent through a set of exemplar services to identify and remove blockers for the data economy.
- Simplifying legislation about data security and privacy
Data security legislation and data privacy legislation are often used as a reason why data is not and cannot be shared more widely. Instead, it is the purpose to which data is being put that should govern permission, not merely a process such as a Privacy Impact Assessment. Government needs to examine legislation and the interpretation of legislation such as the Data Protection Act to make it clearer and less risky for organisations to choose to share data where appropriate.
- Developing standards and certified tooling, not just guidance
Data interoperability should be centrally defined and legally required so that technology doesn’t impede anyone from using data where it is legitimate and beneficial. Data sharing is a difficult problem to solve, but it needs broad consensus to succeed. Government can drive towards this consensus by leading and funding the development of new data standards, technology standards, and certification of market platforms and tools.
- Funding for SMEs and start-ups to innovate
UK Government can stimulate a new ecosystem of SMEs and startups by increasing funding for programs like Innovate UK and improving the existing efforts by the Department for Trade and Investment to support scaling of these organisations overseas. This should include programs to support digital skills in organisations.
- Government legislation to increase competition for sectors in addition to Open Banking
Government can stimulate innovation and increase competition by introducing legislation that requires organisations to share consumer data with third parties, given consumer consent. Open Banking has started this for bank accounts and similar measures could revolutionise, for example, the Retail sector helping to level the playing field for smaller local retailers.
- Government introducing data science to the school curriculum
Data is central to our economy and the delivery of digital services, yet it is not introduced as an academic subject until higher education. Instead, it should be introduced to the school curriculum to make knowledge widespread and help grow skills for the future.
A look at the future
The UK Government is moving in the right direction with the development of a National Data Strategy to help build a world-leading data economy. Leading by example, the UK Government can shape how the future of data looks within the UK from supporting businesses to educating the next generation. If you would like to review our full response to the National Data Strategy, click here.
Peter Campbell - AI Practice Director at Kainos
Peter leads Kainos’ AI Practice and is responsible for helping customers solve their toughest challenges through data and AI/ML solutions.
Nijma Khan - Principal, Government Practice at Faculty
Nijma is an experienced strategy director with a track record of driving complex, multi-stakeholder projects with blue-chip industry clients and non-governmental organisations.
Link to the original post - National Data Strategy Response | Kainos
Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme.
Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.
Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.
Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.
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Zoe is a Programme Assistant, supporting techUK's work across Policy, Technology and Innovation.
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