Full Fact has today, alongside 10 other organisations, written an open letter to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright, calling on him to ensure the UK government does not miss the opportunity provided by the National Data Strategy.
The group is urging the government to take this chance to transform its use of data, and warned that it risks falling behind other countries if it does not invest now.
Failure to invest in better data means the government is currently unable to properly understand its own operations and the quality of public services.
The upcoming National Data Strategy offers the chance to seize the new data environment, and use it to deliver better public services, and improve the economy and society for future generations.
But in order to succeed, there needs to be transformative, not incremental, change and there must be leadership from the very top, with buy-in from the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary and Chief Executive of the civil service. All too often, piecemeal incentives across Whitehall prevent better use of data for the public benefit.
The letter has been signed by the Institute for Government, Full Fact, Nesta, the Open Data Institute, mySociety, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Royal Statistical Society, the Open Contracting Partnership, 360Giving, OpenOwnership, and the Policy Institute at King’s College London. It is the first time this group of think tanks, civil and learned societies have come together to make a united call for sweeping reforms to the UK’s data landscape.
The letter also calls for:
- Investment in skills to convert data into real information that can be acted upon
- The government to earn the public’s trust, recognising that the debate about how to use citizens’ data must be had in public, with the public
- A mechanism for long-term engagement between decision-makers, data users and the public on the strategy and its goals
- Increased efforts to fix the government’s data infrastructure so organisations outside the government can benefit from it
- The strategy to have a broader focus than just public service delivery, including in research funding, procurement and legislation
We believe better data is crucial, not just for better government, but also for a better society. It can help people across the country hold government to account, give them confidence that they are using trustworthy services and allow them to make decisions that can improve their lives.