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How to ensure data is used for the public good



The need to obsess about human outcomes and an integration of data and service teams were among the lessons to emerge from UKAuthority’s Data4Good conference

Data is difficult. There is a consensus across the public sector that it needs to intensify its exploitation of data, but for any organisation doing this well is a stiff challenge.

Getting datasets into shape to obtain the operational benefits on offer is a serious chore, bringing with it a range of difficulties. But the task is becoming more complex as organisations broaden their sights to a wider range of data sources, with varying and unruly structures; and find themselves faced with new governance demands, most notably approach of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

A range of relevant issues were discussed at the UKAuthority Data4Good conference, bringing together some of the leading data specialists from government, representatives from the IT industry and an audience of public servants striving to harness the power of data for their own organisations and communities.

The big priority to emerge was the need for a cohesive approach, not just in how the data is collected, stored, labelled, structured and managed, but in the thinking behind its use. Among the more enlightening comments was that data specialists need to extend their thinking beyond the numbers, sources and structure of the data, and to obsess about the human outcomes from any specific exercise.

What really matters is what the application of data entails for how the organisation serves its community. Data people need to develop a strong sense of empathy with colleagues and the public, focusing their minds firmly on what is needed for the public good.

This can be reinforced by integrating data operations with service teams, sharpening their focus on the day-to-day challenges and the real nature of those outcomes for the public. It’s about making data an integral part of operations and planning, not an activity that takes place to the side.

Public authorities need to address these and a range of other issues, as outlined in the UKAuthority briefing note from the event. You can learn more about the insights and perspectives that emerged by downloading the paper from here.

UKAuthority has prepared a detailed briefing paper from discussions at UKAuthority Data4Good. Download the briefing paper here.

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