The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is currently carrying out a consultation on its National Data Strategy. The strategy was published as part of London Tech Week in September 2020, and outlines the Government’s data policy framework for the coming decade. DCMS are now seeking responses to the document from the wider public. Submissions are open until 2 December 2020.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for DCMS at the time, announced the UK Government’s intention to develop a National Data Strategy in June 2018. DCMS then launched an open call for evidence to inform the strategy in June 2019. The Government also ran a series of stakeholder engagements and roundtables throughout 2019. The outcomes of these engagements, as well as the responses to the call for evidence, have informed the strategy.
It should be noted that the publication of the National Data Strategy follows a statement made by the Prime Minister in July 2020 that the responsibility for Government use of data would be transferred from DCMS to the Cabinet Office. This is part of this Government’s data drive. DCMS will, however, retain responsibility for data policy for the economy and society.
The overarching aim of the National Data Strategy is to “drive the collective vision that will support the UK to build a world-leading data economy.” The document is underpinned by the idea that “unlocking the value of data is key to driving growth both within the digital sector and across the economy.” The contents of the strategy are organised under four pillars, relating to various aspects of data collection and usage. These pillars are:
The strategy focuses extensively on the potential for data to unlock economic productivity and growth for businesses, consumers and government activity. It outlines a variety of opportunities in boosting trade, supporting new jobs, increasing and improving research output, and driving better policy and public service provision. The strategy also sets out a number of actions the Government will take in an effort to realise these opportunities.
A clear takeaway from the strategy is the Government’s belief in the economic potential in having data that is more accessible, and therefore ready to be put to more and better uses. The document establishes the Government’s intention to foster an environment where data can be more readily shared amongst actors and across different sectors of the economy.
This indicates that Government policy on data going forward may focus on making data held by private companies, for instance, more readily available to both consumers and other organisations.
The strategy acknowledges that a significant issue in effectively leveraging data capabilities is a lack of adequate training in the workforce to do so.
The strategy also notes the importance of gaining the public’s trust on data collection and use in an effective data regime more broadly. In this respect, the strategy prioritises a “pro-growth data rights regime.”
More concretely, the strategy mentions the Government’s intention to “explore appropriate and effective mechanisms to deliver more transparency on the use of algorithms in assisting decision making within the public sector” (see our blog post on the DCMS Sub-Committee on Online Harms and Misinformation’s inquiry into data ethics for more on ongoing policy debates on algorithmic transparency).
It is important to note that the strategy does not present the Government’s final view on data strategy and policy, and that DCMS is seeking submissions from the wider public on what the document has set out. The purpose of the consultation is to “sense-check” the proposed actions outlined in the strategy, and gather feedback on whether the strategy “meets its overarching objective of unlocking the power of data across the UK.”
Responses to the consultation will further inform the development of the Government’s policies and actions on data. As such, there is wide scope for corporate engagement in this area to raise any concerns over the National Data Strategy, to provide the Government with further evidence on how data is important to business and trade, and inform the Government’s overall policy in this highly important and quickly developing policy area.
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