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Defra settles priorities for Data Programme



Department draws on data assets and looks to potential of satellites

Work on bovine TV, making better use of technology internally and using real time information to mitigate flood risk have been earmarked as the priority projects for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Data Programme.

They have been flagged up in a blogpost by Catherine Wright, the new director of data, knowledge and innovation for the Environment Agency, following a meeting of the programme board.

It says the work on bovine TB has gone as far as targeting better support for the use of data, and the other two are now at proof-of-concept stage. The project on mitigating flood risk involves using real time information to help manage the network of water management assets.

In sharing her impressions on the Data Programme, Wright says it is about not just managing, but analysing and visualising the wide range of data assets Defra has access to. These include long term datasets on species and environmental quality, data updated daily such as on animal and waste movements, and data captured in real time on the operations of assets.

The department is also getting ready to harness new sources, such as Earth Observation data from satellites to data on the staffing resources that enables its team members to be paid every month.

The satellite data could be particularly useful, says Wright, as it has the potential to marry-up land use and water quality, rural payments spot checks, wildlife and ecosystem management, support work on plant and animal health and manage risks to food security.

Management aims

To do all this, the Defra’s Data Programme Board has decided to focus on better management of group data assets, facilitating access to the department’s data and work around improving its capabilities in data science and analytics.

“When prioritising our activities we will make decisions based on delivery of a transformed service, the opportunity to make cash savings and transformation to the UK,” the board concluded.

Defra’s digital work is also now based on a commitment to agile, with quick discovery and testing with users, a focus on delivery, meaning “we will demonstrate things rather that talking about them,” and an agreement to select projects on the basis of business need guided by transformation.

Image by Sam Wise - Brize Norton Cows, CC BY-SA 2.0

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