How data will shape the success of the new UK Digital Strategy

Andy Bell, VP of global data product management at Precisely, discusses how the UK government can achieve its aims of shaping data governance, promoting data quality standards, and setting the new bar for data privacy.

Posted 8 August 2022 by Christine Horton

By introducing the new UK Digital Strategy, the government has embarked on a journey which will aim to grow the digital economy, cement the UK’s position as a global tech superpower, and transform public services to help improve the day-to-day lives of citizens.

When considering the six main focus areas outlined in the announcement, it is clear to see that the success of the overall strategy will ultimately rely on it being fuelled by trusted data. World-class digital infrastructure, regulatory compliance, technological innovation, digital growth, and data democratisation are all areas which need to be built on a foundation of data that has maximum consistency, accuracy, and context. In other words, maximum data integrity.

Below I have outlined the key areas of the proposed strategy that will rely on a foundation of trusted data – and how adopting a data integrity strategy will help to achieve success.

Powering innovation in technology

It is encouraging to see investments being made to support innovation in technology, with the recent announcement at London Tech Week that the government’s own investment in research and development (R&D) will increase by 50 percent. In addition, sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) hold tremendous promise for smarter decision-making and improved efficiencies, with data sitting at the core of these, fuelling the algorithm and dictating the outcomes.

However, given the huge volume of data required to run programmes such as these, even relatively small errors within said data can lead to large-scale errors in the system’s output. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations to ensure that the data embedded within the technology is high in quality, by checking for consistency, accuracy, compatibility, completeness, timeliness, and duplicate or corrupted records.

Improving collaboration and tech governance

The new strategy also calls out a need for improved collaboration across different organisations. But making sense of the data to enable this type of approach can be a challenge. Data tends to be inconsistent, captured in different formats, and stored in silos, making it difficult to gain a comprehensive, accurate, overarching view.

The ability to better share these insights relies on integrating, cleansing, standardising and validating data on a single platform, linking information to deliver new relationship insights, and making connections across any data source – whether it comes from inside or outside the organisation. Enriching data with contextual information, such as location or demographics, will drive additional insight – ultimately enabling more confident decision-making.

Ensuring a robust data governance strategy will also be key. With the high volumes of data that will be created through the Government’s newly proposed apps, as well as plans to develop a single sign-on to access digital government services, it will be imperative to have strong frameworks in place to properly manage that data and have insight into where it lives and how it gets used.

Ensuring compliance despite an ever-changing regulatory landscape

Data governance also supports data security and regulatory compliance. Data protection regulations are constantly changing, with further shifts away from GDPR being proposed in the UK. The new digital strategy will aim to reduce the pressure of changing regulations by providing the opportunity to create “a light touch, unintrusive, pro-innovation regulatory environment.”

But any version of regulatory compliance relies on having the necessary policies in place to protect sensitive and personally identifiable information. To enable data privacy, organisations must go beyond third-party pre-and post-risk assessments and implement a data governance framework to provide visibility into these policies and how sensitive data and third-party data can be used.

At its core, a comprehensive data governance programme aims to drive better decisions that produce stronger outcomes based on trusted data beyond meeting regulations. Without it, organisations lack the confidence required to maximise the data to its fullest potential. For the public sector, where there is a mounting pressure to demonstrate better collaboration, this will be critical in ensuring that citizens are being given access to the right services when they need them.

Going forward, it is expected that public sector organisations will continue to address data as a top priority. However, they must ensure that robust data foundations are being put in place to support the success of any new initiatives that are introduced. By building a meaningful digital strategy around data integration, data governance and quality, location intelligence, and data enrichment, the UK government and other organisations can be confident that they are making smarter decisions based on trusted data.

Andy Bell is VP of global data product management at Precisely.