The government has published its long-awaited National Data Strategy, a sweeping document that outlines the UK’s vision for “unlocking the power of data” for the economy.

The strategy sets out four pillars that it deems key to reaping the benefits of data. These include standardising data in accessible formats, encouraging data skills in the education system, making data more open and ensuring data is used responsibly.

The government said the strategy will “help ensure that people, businesses and organisations trust the data ecosystem, are sufficiently skilled to operate effectively within it, and can get access to data when they need it”.

This will also see government data “used and shared for the benefit of society”.

It also reiterates a pledge to hire a government chief data officer to lead a “whole-government approach” in “strong partnership with organisations”.

The National Data Strategy was announced more than two years ago and published today by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“Data is now the driving force of the world’s modern economies. It fuels innovation in businesses large and small, and has been a lifeline during the global coronavirus pandemic,” said culture secretary Oliver Dowden in the foreword to the 30,000-word document.

He added that the National Data Strategy is “not the final answer”, with the framework open for consultation until 2 December 2020.

National Data Strategy a “vital step”

To meet the goals outlined in the National Data Strategy, the government said it will:

  • Recruit senior cross-government data leadership, including a chief data officer for government
  • Establish a cross-departmental governance mechanism with the authority to enforce standards across government
  • Drive aligned governance structures across government by: undertaking a review of governance structures for data within departments and ensuring central government departments include data management plans in their Single Departmental Plans

It will also train 500 analysts across the public sector in data science by 2021.

Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Digital and Innovation, welcomed the National Data Strategy.

“Data underpins the modern economy and is essential to businesses in every sector from logistics to retail. It’s at the heart of global trade, competition, and innovation in areas from health to climate change,” she said.

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“We welcome the National Data Strategy as a vital step for the UK be at the forefront of the data revolution. Lessons learnt in the coronavirus crisis must power our economic recovery – crucially, unleashing the power of data in a way that commands trust and empowers people.”

Mark Taylor, data and digital transformation lawyer at Osborne Clarke, said: “In most sectors, there isn’t yet any standard approach or format for data sharing frameworks or for valuing data.  So as well the government initiatives, there’s a lot of commercial and regulatory work needed to build these new data-driven ecosystems – but there’s no doubt that data underpins our digital futures.”


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