UKCloud: The National Data Strategy: Where are we now?

The UK data market is the largest in Europe. With so much potential, a comprehensive plan to optimise, leverage, and action this data capability was released in the form of the National Data Strategy in September 2020. 

An ambitious strategy, not only for its transformative and ‘world leading’ vision for UK data, but because the public sector currently lacks the digital foundations required to extract value from existing datasets. 40% of public sector organisations also lack confidence in their ability to understand where their data is and how it is used. This isn’t just a factor of ineffective digital infrastructure, but also insufficient data skills and poor data governance. 

Once UK public sector organisations begin to build these digital foundations, we can start to responsibly and safely use and share data, and extract true value through research and innovation. 

What is data? Well, the National Data Strategy defines it as ’information about people, things and systems.’ Though data can be tangible, ‘Big Data’ which contains immense value and is often complex – containing both structured and unstructured data – is usually digital information. It’s the better use of that digital data which the National Data Strategy is all about. 

Data is often referred to the ‘oil or gold’ of the information age, and these aforementioned complexities are what makes it so important for public sector organisations to have a good handle on where their data is, and a safe and compliant strategy on how they plan to use it. 

This is especially true for Health and Social Care, wherein the projected global data volume for 2020 was over 2100 exabytes. That’s an almost incomprehensible amount of potential value, and as much as 80% of healthcare data is unstructured. This is data that isn’t actively managed within a transactional system, such as rich media, document collections, IoT data or analytics data. For Health organisations, this data may often come in the form of Electronic Health Records (EHR). 

It’s important that organisations consider the governance of their data. How will it be used? How can it be standardised? How can we ensure that we are being compliant? All of these questions will minimise the risk of breaching data privacy laws and will ensure adequate data security and effective usage. 

Health organisations especially can gain so much value and insight from this data, from research to innovation - providing crucial understanding of patterns and trends which can transform patient outcomes and experiences. But it’s not just beneficial to health – these data-driven insights can optimise capabilities and drive efficiencies throughout the public sector. 

And with better use, understanding, skills and governance, comes the opportunity for safe data sharing, one of the key missions of the National Data Strategy. This has been demonstrated through Europe’s ambitious GAIA-X project, and has begun in the UK Health Sector (although not without its issues) through the government’s GPDPR initiative. Though the vision for safe data sharing and the international flow of data is one fraught with good intention, and societal benefit, it is also one plagued with public wariness and privacy concern. Minimising risk is the top priority for enabling this future. 

About this author

This Guest blog was written by Ben Revell, UKCloud. UKCloud focuses on helping public sector organisations deliver more value to the UK taxpayer through safer, cheaper and more flexible IT. Their unique, multi-cloud offering allows public sector organisations to modernise legacy workloads across the board. Rehost traditional systems with UKCloud for VMware, or explore new and emerging technologies with OpenShift. No matter your digital maturity, they can help you build a cloud specific to your needs. To learn more about UKCloud, please visit their LinkedIN and Twitter.


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