Editorial

THINK Data for Government 2021: Using data for public good

THINK Data for Government 2021 discusses the vital role of data in transforming peoples’ lives

Posted 4 May 2021 by

The global health crisis has demonstrated the critical nature of data. Additionally, the past year has seen several crucial papers published including the National Data Strategy, the Geospatial Strategy, and guidelines for acquiring, building and using AI capabilities in the public sector.

At the same time, COVID-19 has forced an acceleration in digital transformation projects that extends to the public sector. McKinsey estimates data and analytics could create value worth between $9.5 trillion and $15.4 trillion a year if embedded at scale—and $1.2 trillion of that in the public and social sectors.

THINK Data for Government 2021 on May 12 examines the opportunities and challenges for public bodies and their suppliers when it comes to implementing a data strategy. The event presents a diverse range of exciting speakers about current thinking and best practices to ensure that data is at the centre of public sector transformation programmes.

“How we use data for the public good is one of the most important and interesting policy challenges of our time,” said Jessica Figueras, vice-chair of the UK Cyber Security Council. “We know there are opportunities to spur economic growth, and to improve the quality of public services, but we also see significant ethical and feasibility challenges. And we simply don’t have time to wait. Public bodies have been working with data in both sophisticated and unsophisticated ways already for many years. With the growth of automated decision-making, we can’t continue to treat this as a niche and specialist issue. 

“I’m thrilled at the quality and diversity of speakers and panellists at the event, and looking forward to learning more from them, and from our audience.”

Events and sessions

  • The event includes a panel session of guest speakers discussing how data and information is the number one asset for public sector organisations wishing to drive benefit for citizens. But digital transformation initiatives have too often treated data as an afterthought, meaning lost opportunities to exploit analytics and AI.
  • Sue Bateman, deputy director for data and innovation at the Central Digital and Data Office, will set out the current state of play for data across various English government departments and outline plans for activity as the public sector moves through 2021 and beyond.
  • Albert King, chief data officer at The Scottish Government outlines the work being undertaken as part of Scotland’s Vision for Data, including Scotland’s Digital Strategy, AI Strategy and programmes to build a data infrastructure in Scotland.
  • One panel session examines the possibilities of predictive AI in the public sector, with interest in early intervention approaches in sectors from health to education and policing. But it’s become clear that this is an area fraught with practical and ethical dangers. What should bodies be doing to bring about nirvana, not nightmare?
  • Elsewhere, a panel of experts delve into the issue of data protection and privacy, which continue to present complex practical and ethical challenges for public bodies.
  • The UK faces a serious data skills shortage that’s estimated to cost £2 billion a year. Here specialists will discuss the critical gaps in government, and what’s being done to close them. Whether it’s machine learning specialists or data-literate senior officials, how can public bodies build the data competence they’ll need to succeed?
  • The UK’s first Geospatial Strategy, published last year, described the opportunity to harness the potential of location data to drive our future economic recovery and growth. This session will look at the immediate opportunities for public bodies to exploit the data that they curate, and to make it accessible for innovation.

“Launching a Data for Government event was a natural progression for us as it beautifully joins the dots between our existing Digital Identity and Cybersecurity conferences,” said Matt Stanley, director Think Digital Partners.

“The response from the public sector when we announced this conference back in January has been overwhelming. Pretty quickly we’ve been able to recruit some fantastically knowledgeable speakers that are so passionate about the topic. The idea is that this half day conference will not only inform a wider public sector audience about the current data situation across public sector but also build up an appetite for a full day data conference (hopefully in person) towards the end of the year!”

Secure your place at the virtual event today.

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