If the government wants to modernise, it must start with its data – but addressing the government’s data issues isn’t easy.

For 25 years, the government has wanted to improve and make better use of its data. Using data well is essential for a cheaper, more efficient government and better services for citizens. But progress in this area has been slow.

Part of this is due to the government being weighed down by the baggage of legacy systems and ways of working. This puts it at a disadvantage to newer organisations like Amazon or Netflix which were designed and built for effective use of data from the outset.

What are the questions to resolve?

There is work to do, but what exactly? Our new guide to improving government data aims to help decision-makers understand the current issues in more detail, and the ways they can be addressed.

The government now has new plans to improve data, with the Central Digital and Data Office and the Office for National Statistics now doing some good work in this area. For these plans to have the best chance of success, all areas of government must understand the barriers that have held back progress in the past.

Our guide addresses some of the key issues, such as:

  • Data sharing: Why the answer is more than just individual data sharing agreements
  • Data quality: Why it matters, and why problems with data quality persist
  • Data standards: Why they are so hard to implement in practice
  • Creating cross-government data sets: Why further questions arise when using each other’s data to create single data sets
  • Data analytics: Why advanced technologies can’t solve all the problems

The government needs to acknowledge and address these issues and understand why previous initiatives have not had the success they hoped for.

Where might the answers lie?

Our guide sets out the steps needed to create the foundations for improving government data. Managing and improving data cannot be achieved without focused effort and prioritisation and having the right amount of funding to back it up. In the past, when the difficulties with data initiatives have got too hard, they have petered out.

This needs to change. It’s a big challenge, but addressing these issues could unlock substantial benefits for the public and the government alike.

Yvonne Gallagher

Yvonne Gallagher

Yvonne is our digital transformation expert, and leads the Digital Insights team. She has over 25 years’ experience in IT, business change, digital services and cyber and information assurance.

Yvonne has been a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Digital Officer in the private sector as well as holding senior roles in large companies such as the Prudential and Network Rail. She was also CIO in two major government departments.