How to create open, shared and sustainable data in government

Charles Baird and Firoze Salim from the Central Digital and Data office (CDDO) joined Made Tech’s Jim Stamp to examine how both central and local government can drive innovation through data sharing.

Posted 12 December 2022 by Christine Horton

Creating open, shared and sustainable data to support decision making is an ongoing challenge within government.

Charles Baird, head of data architecture, Central Digital and Data office (CDDO), was recently joined by Firoze Salim, head of frameworks and standards, data strategy and standards at the CDDO and Jim Stamp, head of data at Made Tech to debate the subject at the recent Think Data for Government event.

Made Tech has been working with different data platforms in local governments, and supports building a blueprint Semantic Ontology, and by extension a data model, that can be shared openly.

Stamp said it is important to differentiate between organisational and analytical data when it comes to driving innovation and collaboration between departments and local authorities.

“There’s another level of complexity when you separate that operational layer and make it analytical,” he said. “There needs to be that conversation: are we talking about data for analytical purposes or data for operational purposes?”

He said Made Tech works with customers to ensure the schema they use for their API is the same that they use for their analytical data.

“If we can use the same definition of that data for both purposes, it makes that ownership more defined,” he said. “It’s easy to connect to the database and take a copy of the data for analytical purposes. It’s easy for an engineer to change that schema of that database. Whereas if you use the data that’s been designed, that people care about, that people feel ownership for – the API – then it makes it harder for people to change it.

“As a software engineer, changing an API keeps you awake at night. But changing a database schema is something you do every day without consequence. Usually, no one sees it, it should be hidden behind something. So, building that ownership in making sure that people feel that need to maintain professionalism, I think is important.”

“Whether it’s analytical data or data use for operational purposes, we’ve got to handle in a way that engenders trust, whether it’s citizens or people who are providing it,” added Salim. “So, embedding it in the system and also understanding how when data is then linked up and becomes an entity in its own right, separate to what happens with that ownership chain. These are all things that we’re mulling over.”

Bridging the gap between central and local government

The panel also examined how to best align projects to drive innovation and collaboration between departments and local authorities.

“I think the problems are so different, at times it feels like we can’t bridge the gap between central and local. But I think the principles stand. Some of the technologies are definitely reusable,” said Stamp.

“One of the things we’re trying to do…is make the things that we do available across central and local government, even if we’re designing them for central government to start with,” said Baird. “We’re really keen on using communities of practice as a way to share knowledge, both across both central and local government. We run the API and data exchange community of practice. ONS run the government data architecture community. And those are great for being quite open forum, in terms of bringing people in from both central and local government and sharing the knowledge in that way.”

We are already working on the agenda for the Think Digital Identity for Government conference in May 2023 but if you missed this conference, you can still register and view the session recordings online. Register to view here.