Security, interoperability and ethics among key drivers of government data strategies

government data strategy

Data security, interoperability and ethics are among the priority considerations for data policies in UK Government according to research by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 

But while those issues are high on the agendas of data leaders, there is still a long way to go for them to reach maturity, with many aspects of organisations’ data policies remaining works in progress.

The research report and accompanying film, House of Data, whose respondents hold data and digital roles in the UK public sector, looked at data adoption and practices across the breadth of the UK public sector

When asked to indicate the considerations for inclusion in their data policies, most cited security as their biggest priority. Of those, 69% said their data security was well established while the remaining 31% said they were working on the security policy. As the report commentary states: “Whilst some organisations are further along the line than others, it’s encouraging to know that NONE of the respondents had plans to ignore data security in their strategy/policy.”

On the question of data interoperability and the ability for different departments to share and access data from outside their own organisations, the research suggests the issue is “clearly important but yet to be truly defined.” 80% of respondents said they were working on the interoperability piece in their strategies, with 18% describing that work as well established and 2% not planning to make any provision.

The research suggests that the relatively new area of interoperability naturally raises some challenges. “Initiatives such as the NHS Federated Data Platform are an acknowledgement of the need for data sharing. As with all citizen data projects, it is contentious, and the citizen trust conversation comes into play. There is a job to be done to educate society on the benefits of these projects at an individual level.”

Analysis around “data management” (defined as a combination of availability, retention, and security) is described as “surprising”, with more than half of responding organisations stating they’re only working on solutions rather than having fully complete policies and processes. data prioritiesAs the report states: “This has to be a concern when taking the exponential growth of data into account, as well as increasing instances of cyber-attacks.”

In response to the ongoing scrutiny faced in the public sector on the ethical use of data, 98% of organisations are building the issue into their data strategies, but the majority (68%) admit that it is a work in progress rather than completed.

Commenting on the report’s findings around data ethics in the public sector, Lisa Allen, Director of Data and Tech Services at the Open Data Institute said: “Data ethics is a really interesting topic, and not one to be confused with data protection – which we already have in the UK. The ‘data ethics’ conversation is about whether the data you gather on individuals is necessary to have in the first place, what purpose it will serve having it and is its retention and use going to have a better, or worse, impact on them and society.”

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