Poor quality data in government leads to failings in services provided, poor decision-making and an inability to understand how best to improve. Issues with data come up in many of this Committee’s reports. Over many years government has increased its use of technology and data. However, departments have been left to develop their own processes for managing data, leading to inconsistency across government. Data has not been treated as a valuable asset, so it has become normal to ‘work around’ poor-quality, disorganised data. A step-change in the government’s approach to data is long overdue.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced that it will produce yet another data strategy. But previous initiatives to improve the use of data across government have not delivered the benefits promised. The government has barely scratched the surface of what it needs to do so it can use data to deliver joined-up public services and increase efficiency. This will not be a quick or simple task as there are significant challenges. These include a lack of government-wide data standards; ageing IT systems; fragmented leadership; and a civil service culture that does not support sharing data across departmental boundaries. Government must tackle these while upholding the public’s trust in how government uses their data. Our experience of other cross-government initiatives tells us that government-wide improvements depend on persistent and firm pressure from the centre of government, or this new strategy will become another missed opportunity.
Published: 25 September 2019