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Government accepts case for wider sharing of public sector data

Patrick Vallance
Sir Patrick Vallance
Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

The UK Government has accepted a proposal to prioritise the wider sharing and linkage of public sector data, including greater access for industry.

It has signalled the intention in the official document for the Spring Budget, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt MP yesterday.

This includes a statement that it is ready to accept all the recommendations of Sir Patrick Vallance’s Pro-innovation Regulation of Technologies Review, also published yesterday, which identifies needs to improve integration of public datasets to support service, and make it easier for private sector firms to access data when appropriate.

It recommends that the Government should facilitate greater industry access to public data and prioritise its sharing across the public sector to support the transformation of services.

This is related to the desire to the earlier identification of 75 services for transformation in the Government’s roadmap for digital and data.

Run a competition

“The Government should identify the most pressing of these challenges and run a competitive process to seek innovative, data driven ideas from industry to deliver the roadmap,” the Vallance review says.

“As part of this competition, the government should establish a process to allow the rapid provision of data in selected areas, in the form of reusable verifiable credentials and ensure appropriate access to datasets that can realise commercial value opportunities. Ongoing public engagement and involvement on the use of data will be key.”

It adds that the Government should also consider the potential use of other privacy enhancing technologies or data intermediaries as low risk options for the exchange of data, and recommends the use of platforms such as the Office for National Statistics’ Integrated Data Service and to make data available to analysts and researchers.

Vallance also makes recommendations for: the development of a multi-regulator sandbox for testing AI; a clear policy position on the relationship between intellectual property law and generative AI; an operating standard for drones; stronger legal protections for cyber security researchers and professionals; and limiting the regulation of emerging technologies to avoid stifling innovation.

The Budget document includes a number commitments related to digital in public services, albeit with limited detail.

They include: the provision of a further £30.4 million from the Shared Outcomes Fund for existing public service projects; ensuring the availability of digital resources such as apps in healthcare; improving the digital strand of a ‘midlife MOT’ for people take stock of their finances in advance of retirement; and the integration of digital tools such as JobHelp into the process taken by universal credit claimants.

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