UK to produce National Data Strategy
The UK government plans to produce a new national data strategy in 2020, and has now released a report detailing the challenges in using data across government.
Despite years of effort, the UK government has lacked “clear and sustained strategic leadership” on the collection and use of data, the report from the National Audit Office found.
Government has consistently failed to treat data as a priority, and the need to invest in quality data is not well understood. As a result, a culture has been built up based on tolerating and working with poor quality data.
The consequences of the inadequate collection and use of data can be significant. The report lists several case studies where using poor quality data had negative consequences, such as the ‘Windrush situation’ involving the UK’s Home Office.
Several reports into the 2018 Windrush political scandal — which involved the wrongful detention and in at least 83 cases deportation of citizens of former British colonies in the Caribbean who had the right to migrate to the UK under the British Nationality Act — have raised concerns that inadequate data was a contributing factor.
At the time, the Committee of Public Accounts concluded that the Home Office was “making life-changing decisions on people’s rights, based on incorrect data from systems that are not fit for purpose”.
But the report found that government is coming to recognise the value of data, and notes that its planned national data strategy aims to position “the UK as a global leader on data, working collaboratively and openly across government”.
The report concludes that while this is promising, “unless government uses the data strategy to push a sea change in strategy and leadership, it will not get the right processes, systems and conditions in place to succeed, and this strategy will be yet another missed opportunity”.
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