Programme team calls on departments and agencies to support step towards upgrading data infrastructure
The Government Digital Service (GDS) has said that Whitehall departments and agencies need to be active in developing an “open register ecosystem” as part of the campaign to upgrade the government’s data infrastructure.
It wants them to help establish the common naming conventions and standardised application programming interfaces (APIs) to make it easier to use data from different government organisations.
The approach has been outlined in a blog by Ade Adewunmi, digital strategy advisor at GDS, published on the day that Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock announced a programme to upgrade the government data infrastructure.
Although not referring to the announcement, it provides some of the technical detail to back up the government’s plan, and says the existing structure for accessing and storing data is not up the needs of users.
Need for links
It says that the naming conventions and standardised APIs are needed to make it possible to link between registers – authoritative lists of trusted information – as part of an open register ecosystem. This needs the involvement of departments and agencies, although there will also be a role for the newly formed Data Leaders Network with the GDS Data Group providing support.
GDS has previously emphasised the importance of registers, and has begun work with departments on creating these to replace existing lists as the recognised sources of data wherever possible. But the blog acknowledges this will take time, and says that to get some value as quickly as possible it is analysing open datasets on data.gov.uk to identify the most commonly referenced as a basis for open registers.
“Building a distributed data landscape in this way makes for a robust ecosystem which will benefit users both inside and outside government,” Adewunmi says. “It’s one of many steps towards a 21sst century data infrastructure.”
In his speech, Hancock said the modernisation of the data infrastructure should involve improvements in standardising and managing data, moving away from government’s reliance on bulk data to create an economy of APIs. This would provide the scope for others to use and “mash” the data to provide new services.
Adewunmi also identifies three common problems in the way that government currently manages its data:
- that the data needs a more verifiable history to show how it has changed over time and to trace its provenance;
- APIs are not consistently available;
- and publishing data is not always regarded as a priority.
The three priority features in the new infrastructure will be that: data is accurate and up-to-date; retains the same format and is consistent with other datasets; and comprehensive for what it claims to cover.