The UK Government’s Integrated Data Service (IDS) has gone into its public beta phase with tests of its functionality and access for a growing number of accredited researchers.
Dominic Hale, head of strategy for the IDS at the Office of National Statistics (ONS), provided an update on its development at the Think Data for Government conference this week.
He said the platform’s website has been launched, there are currently around 150 users – from organisations including HM Revenue and Customs and the Welsh Government – and data from the National Census of 2021 has been uploaded for use in a number of exploratory projects.
There are currently around 30 datasets on the platform and he said the number is increasing every month.
The IDS, a private beta version of which was launched in October 2021, brings together data ready to use for analysis in informing policy decisions and improving public services.
Development of the service has been slowed by around six months by a move from AWS to the Google Cloud Platform
“We should not consider ourselves locked into any vendor, and that’s a big deal,” Hale said.
DEA accreditation plan
The next step is to gain accreditation for the platform under the Digital Economy Act, which he said is anticipated to be in place within the next few weeks and should give data providers more confidence in using it to share their data for analysis.
This will be followed by working towards a target of 1,500 users by March 2024, predominantly from the Government Analysis Function but also with some from outside government, with live self-service for accredited users.
An effort has now begun to increase the amount of data available on the platform, with ONS taking a lead as a major source.
“ONS being the lead delivery partner, there is a huge push to get as much of its data on there as possible,” Hale said.
He added that the service will run in parallel with the existing data.gov.uk website for open data.
The IDS provides a trusted research environment, providing a route through APIs to datasets held in government bodies, with components included indexed data, a standard data linking and matching tool, priority analysis and access to modern language tools. It runs in a multi-cloud environment and is underpinned by appropriate legislative and administrative polices.
Access and impact
Among the benefits claimed is that it will increase reliable access to a wide range of public and private sector data, provide for an impactful dissemination of its outputs, provide efficiency savings and reduce the cost of data sharing. It is also expected to support faster policy making in government.
“Sharing data across government’s digital estate is not easy and there’s a lot of friction in that,” Hale said. “We’re looking to significantly streamline that and have data ready for government analysts in a research ready format.”
The recently published Vallance Review on digital technologies in government recommended continued support for the IDS in making data available to more analysts and researchers.