Left column


July 2022

    Improving government data: what needs to change? 

  • Posted on July 25, 2022 by

    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 are 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. 

    About the author: 

    Yvonne Gallagher

    Yvonne Gallagher

    Yvonne is our digital transformation expert, focused on assessing the value for money of the implementation of digital change programmes. Yvonne has over 25 years’ experience in IT, business change, digital services and cyber and information assurance, including as CIO in two government departments and senior roles in private sector organisations, including the Prudential and Network Rail.

    Comment on this post...

Right column

  • About the NAO blog

    Our experts share their views about issues and common challenges facing government, what public sector leaders should look out for and how organisations have addressed issues. Our posts draw together threads from across our reports, share secrets spilled in events and reveal our experts’ expectations for the future.

    We encourage comments that support the exchange of ideas for improvement, but ask that those posting are respectful of others.

  • Sign up for automatic feeds

    Sign up to receive email alerts:

    RSS IconSubscribe in an RSS Reader