New legislation will enable public authorities to better share data with other public bodies through proposals set out in the recent digital economy bill.
The digital economy bill has three main aims surrounding data sharing.
- to improve public service delivery,
- help detect fraud and debt owed to government,
- make it easier for researchers and statisticians to access public data.
Essentially, The bill will establish a gateway for public authorities to disclose information to another public body for a defined and particular purpose.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said:
“Valuable opportunities to help people are often missed because of the way in which government stores, manages and uses data. This means we are falling behind on the services we are able to provide, and wasting public money.”
The government said there had been a broadly positive reaction to the proposals, particularly from local authorities and bodies that deliver front-line services adding that powers would simplify the legal landscape and allow more coordinated interventions.
The government keenly stressed that the move would not weaken the Data Protection Act and that data would only be shared where there was a public benefit.
The government is now developing a code of practice to guide the appropriate use of the data, in collaboration with the Information Commissioner’s Office and other interested bodies. This may work to alleviate concerns around proposed bulk information sharing raised within initial consultation.
Reaction to the digital economy bill.
Nobody can question that the UK has been lagging behind in how the masses of data held by public bodies can be used more effectively to enable better decision making. Additionally, Measures in breaking down the silos of data information handling in public services have been long overdue.
However, you can easily identify two changes that are central to the success of this new legislation.
- Out of the gate, a change in how IT infrastructures are delivered. A recent report from states that only a third of councils operate on a cloud based platform.
- And then notably a change in culture; a shift in attitude is necessary to embrace the meaning of ‘public service’.
In understanding the challenges, let’s realise the opportunity.
This is a positive move towards delivering better, focused and more citizen-centred services. The best practice in service delivery that we strive for can be enhanced through meaningful and purposeful legislation.
I would also ‘nod’ to the Well Being of Future Generations Act in Wales, that is championing how public sector bodies should collaborate to deliver that often used, but sometimes term ‘citizen-centred services’.