What are the details behind the UK Government's newly launched National Data Strategy?


02 December 2020

On 9 September 2020, the UK Government published its National Data Strategy. Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, describes the document as “a framework for the action this government will take on data”.

The National Data Strategy

It builds on the government’s manifesto pledge to improve data use in government and forms part of the government’s wider vision for a “thriving, fast growing digital sector in the UK, underpinned by public trust”.

The document sets out four pillars that underpin the strategy and which the government deems key to making the best use of data in the UK. The four pillars are:

  1. Data foundations – ensuring data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable
  2. Data skills – ensuing people have the right data skills needed
  3. Data availability – ensuing data is accessible, mobile and re-usable and can flow (including internationally)
  4. Responsible data – ensuring data is used in a lawful, secure, fair and ethical way.

Building on the pillars, the strategy identifies five very broad plans of action, which the strategy refers to as “missions”. The five missions are:

  1. unlocking the value of data across the economy
  2. securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime
  3. transforming the government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services
  4. ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies; and
  5. championing the international flow of data.

How will the National Data Strategy affect the public sector?

Although much of the new strategy is designed to encourage economic growth in the private sector, data use within the public sector is also set for change.

The strategy acknowledges that there is massive untapped potential in the way government and public services use and share data. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated this potential and showed what it is possible to achieve when government departments and the wider public sector share data to solve problems quickly. The strategy commits to the appointment of a Government Chief Data Officer to lead a whole-government approach in strong partnership with other organisations. The document states, “…we need to transform the way data is collected, managed, used and shared across government, including with the wider public sector, and create joined-up and interoperable data infrastructure.”

Public services rely heavily on data but much of it is stored on out-of-date systems that are often incompatible with each other. By modernising the way data is managed and shared across the public sector, the government aims to generate efficiency savings and improve public services.

As well as demonstrating the government’s commitment to resolving the challenges that the public sector currently faces in sharing data, the strategy also aims to improve data skills across the public sector. For example, it includes plans for 500 analysts to be trained up in data and data science across the public sector by 2021.

What happens next?

The consultation stage of the strategy ended on 2 December 2020. The government was hoping to receive comments from a wide range of interested parties, including start-ups, charities and small businesses, technology and data driven companies, and local authorities and other public bodies. It is expected that the government will publish a response in early 2021. As Dominic Cummings has been driving much of the government’s work around data and technology, it remains to be seen how his departure will affect the strategy.

For further information regarding the National Data Strategy, please contact Senior Associate Andrea Curtis.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2020.