Opinion: Key takeaways from the Government Data Summit

In September (or two PMs ago, as the new time measure goes), my colleagues and I at Government Transformation magazine welcomed over 130 Civil Service DDaT executives at the Government Transformation Summit. Last week, we gathered once again at Westminster’s Church House, this time to hear from UK and international government data leaders about the greatest challenges and opportunities for public sector data at the Government Data Summit.

We saw on stage some of the top luminaries in the field from agencies such as ONS, CDDO, DiT, North Sea Transition Authority, and IPO. They discussed themes ranging from the leader’s role in unlocking data potential, to ways in which government executives can maximise data interoperability and integration to support innovation - all complemented by the international output from high-flyers from the governments of Canada, the US and EU countries.GDS panel with David Wilde

It was a highly stimulating day characterised by candid conversations and thought-provoking ideas. As Government Transformation magazine’s GM for Government, I took an active part in steering the many conversations that happened there. For those of you who couldn’t join us, here my key takes from the conference:

Canada is where we want to be

O Canada! It was impressive to hear from our Canadian colleagues how far the North American country has gone when it comes to data-sharing and cross-departmental collaboration.

We listened first-hand from CDOs of different departments, including Canada’s Treasury, Employment and Social Development, and Health and Social Care, praising these achievements - it wasn’t just the government’s CDO office blowing in its own trumpet but leaders across different organisations themselves acknowledging these wins.

The secret? Get your foundations and governance right; sort out relationships across departments and build trust between public sector agencies and between government with citizens.

The vendor community is mature

It was refreshing to hear from the technology suppliers' keynote presentations and contributions to the panels about solutions able to make a difference rather than products.

The days of the old sales pitch are gone and it was clear from the conversations in the Summit that suppliers' matter experts have much to offer to leaders in government and that they understand the challenges they are facing. They came with the right content and spoke to the audience in meaningful ways.

We found the perfect format to enable meaningful conversations

Delegates, co-hosts and speakers shared with us how beneficial they found the Summit’s small theme-focused roundtable discussion format to share their experiences and ideas freely and transparently.

Executives also praised the advantages of having executives from a wide variety of departments and from the international community that allowed them to have in-depth conversations on challenging topics. 

The keynote presentations and panel discussions on stage, where we saw how panellists didn’t shy away from the difficult questions, offered great balance within this format.

It was exciting to listen to speakers sharing openly the experiences from their departments on stage, using a healthy mix of strategic and technical details.

The case studies presented by our colleagues at home and abroad demonstrated a paradigm shift of how real world data analysis is not just an afterthought to justify policy but how today it feeds into the big decisions made by government from the beginning.Government Data Forum

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