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Audit Scotland calls for measures to fill data gaps


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Audit Scotland has set out a number of measures to be taken at national and local level to improve the use of data in the country’s public sector.

It has taken the step after identifying the existence of ‘data gaps’ as significant problem in the sector, with shortcomings in the collection of necessary information and problems with data being in inconsistent formats that make it difficult to analyse.

The recommendations have emerged from a round table of public sector leaders run by the organisation.

At a national level they include the development of data catalogues and registries, common data standards, clarity on licensing, investments in data skills and infrastructure, incentives for sharing data securely and responsibly, and more collaboration between public and private sectors and academia.

For local leaders, Audit Scotland has called for efforts to develop a better understanding of what data is collected and its quality, a focus on data to address the most important issues, the adoption of data catalogues and standards, and an investment in relevant infrastructure and tools.

There is also a need for a stronger data culture and more transparency so the public understands how data is used.

Seen as a burden

Director of performance audit and best value Gemma Diamond said in a blogpost: “Right now, data is often seen as a burden for public bodies, rather than the key to policy decisions. People producing data are often stuck in a cycle of reporting for reporting’s sake……. Public sector leaders, too, are not clear on what data they have and how to use it. Or they find that the data they want is simply missing or doesn’t exist.”

She emphasised the need to reduce duplication, focus resources on data needed to tackle the country’s biggest problems, and building skills and a data culture across public bodies.

“As a small country, we can build on the collaborative efforts and rich learning we saw during the pandemic, by sharing best practice across sectors,” she said.

The auditor also highlighted positive measures such as working on a new data strategy for health and social care, work on data standards and developing data catalogues in local government.

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