Where Data Interoperability will take Government next

It was striking how many conversations at the Government Transformation Summit centred on data exchange. You might think that simply means moving data from A to B - but delegates have grasped a more strategic approach is needed to transform services.

Regardless of whether discussions were taking place during roundtables, on panels or as part of keynote speeches, there was a buzz around the opportunities we’re witnessing to not just swap data between organisations, but also to share knowledge, ideas and use cases. Strategic, successful data operability feels within our grasp.

Data is the key to transformation

There’s clearly a realisation - which feels a long time in the making - that shifting data from one point to another, for example from servers to the cloud, is mainly a technology challenge.

But true transformation will only be born from also addressing the data challenge, so that a real understanding of the information that exists within and between departments can drive better citizen outcomes.

Differing levels of departmental maturity were apparent at the event, and that means organisations are at very different stages of realising the value of their data. As a result, there’s much work to be done, and much more collaboration between the public and private sector needed, before data interoperability can bear fruit.

It’s still too easy for teams to get bogged down by the technology that is meant to manage the data. What starts out as a digital transformation can quickly narrow into a tech refresh rather than the intended focus on outcomes, an approach which is badly needed in public sector service design.

What’s required is a data strategy that allows teams to understanding what the information is telling them, and how it can be employed to design better services to suit citizens.

High quality data drives high quality services

So, obstacles to data interoperability abound. But I believe change is happening. If user data is the fuel for better services, then we’re already on a journey to improving the transparency that must exist in a fair exchange between government and individual. For too long, citizens will have experienced public services appearing ‘from behind the curtain’. In a modern society, they must be directly involved in service design, contributing their needs for the betterment of delivery, access and experience.

When transparency is a commitment, trust is built and people are more willing to set aside scepticism and share their personal information. What you get then is a higher-quality, more valuable pool of data that forms the foundation of efficient, cost-effective and ultimately improved services. Suddenly, the citizen will be aware that they can access the support they need, which has always been there but was hidden from view.

Of course, cultures in some departments must change to make this happen. That’s never easy, but the twin engines of digital and data are redefining principles and erasing for good some ‘old rules’ of operation. Accountability, honesty and transparency are becoming the new tenets of data strategy.

The corollary of all this is quality. It will help the Civil Service reduce the waste associated with two-thirds of analysts’ time being spent on solving data problems. And, as seen in other countries where data interoperability is already in place and succeeding, it will allow us to build momentum towards a brighter, more beneficial future for the citizens we serve.

Government Data Forum

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