What the new DCMS National Data Strategy means for businesses

According to the governmental announcement, the National Data Strategy from the DCMS looks to use data to create more job opportunities and boost innovation across the UK.

The initiative aims to have 500 trained data analysts within the public sector by 2021, introduce a new government data officer to oversee the transformation of data usage, and undergo a £2.6 million project to address barriers to data sharing, as well as develop online harm detection.

“Our response to coronavirus has shown just how much we can achieve when we can share high-quality data quickly, efficiently and ethically. I don’t intend to let that lesson go to waste,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“Our new National Data Strategy will maintain the high watermark of data use set during the pandemic – freeing up businesses, government and organisations to innovate, experiment and drive a new era of growth.

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“I am absolutely clear that data and data use are opportunities to be embraced, rather than a threat to be guarded against.

“It aims to make sure British businesses are in a position to make the most of the digital revolution over the years and decades to come, help us use data to improve people’s lives, and position the UK as a global champion of data use.”

The strategy features the following missions:

1. Unlocking the value of data across the economy

This mission involves improving access to data for organisations of all sizes, so that they can make use of the information they need more efficiently, in the aim to cultivate growth and innovation.

To do this safely, the strategy aims to balance incentives for companies and benefits for the economy, as well as balancing individual rights and public benefit when it comes to personal data.

2. Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime

The second mission within the strategy looks to maintain and improve security, privacy and trust, in line with data protection laws.

To help with this, the government says that they will seek EU ‘data adequacy’, so that free flow of personal data from the European Economic Area (EEA) can continue, and draw up a regime that can allow businesses to continue innovating and be clearly guided.

In addition, the strategy calls for companies to be clear and transparent about how they use data, as the government works with the Centre of Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI).

3. Transforming government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services

The government are looking to transform its use of data to bolster operations within public services.

Barriers that are currently in place, according to the strategy, include legal and security risks, a lack of consistency in governmental standards, and a lack of skills, incentives or investment to drive effective governance. However, the appointment of a new data officer aims to overcome these obstacles.

This mission identifies five areas for driving change:

  • Quality, availability and access
  • Standards and assurance
  • Capability, leadership and culture
  • Accountability and productivity
  • Ethics and public trust

4. Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies

The penultimate mission of the new National Data Strategy looks to maintain security and resilience within data infrastructures. This includes combatting cyber threats, improving risk management, and keeping data collection and transfer secure.

Additionally, the mission aims to increase sustainability of data use as the UK continues to work towards its net zero 2050 target.

5. Championing the international flow of data

Lastly, the strategy addresses the need to continue sharing data across borders post-Brexit in order to ensure effective recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and drive global business.

The following four actions have been identified in order to maintain international data operations:

  • Build trust in the use of data
  • Facilitate cross-border data flows
  • Drive data standards and interoperability internationally
  • Drive UK values internationally

Driving value

Dan Sommer, senior director at Qlik, said that for businesses, the new strategy will be useful in helping to drive value from data.

“The importance of introducing a National Data Strategy isn’t just about helping companies understand that they should be using data to improve their decision-making and enhance the accuracy and efficiency of their processes – most already know this,” said Sommer. “In fact, Qlik’s research with IDC already revealed that as a result of their investments in data, British businesses typically increase profit by 16%, revenue by 17%, and reduce operational costs by 16%.

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“Instead, the pillars outlined for consultation show a focus on helping them accelerate the value they’re getting from their data. For example, setting strong foundations that make data ‘findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable’ is critical to improving the outcomes of British firms’ current data investments – particularly given 99% of British companies find it challenging to find valuable data sources for analysis.

“Similarly, the focus on data skills is important given the significant shortage in the UK. Our research with Accenture previously showed just 17% of the working population are data literate, which in turn is contributing to a massive productivity cost to the tune of £10 billion each year to British businesses. Finally, perhaps it’s worthwhile not considering them as pillars, but as integrated parts of a pipeline, as there are valuable integration points between them.

“It will be in providing the guidance and investment that supports businesses to overcome these issues that will make the National Data Strategy so valuable, helping them ascend from collecting and reporting with data towards transforming it into active intelligence that will deliver tangible improvements and outcomes.”

Making sense of data

Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer at Conga, explained the importance of having the best understanding of data possible as businesses in the UK look to recover from the pandemic.

“The pandemic has hit businesses hard and if we are going to help them to recover, the transformation to a digital economy is a necessary and critical step,” said Finnegan. “The UK Government’s National Data Strategy will champion this shift and will be key to helping businesses across the UK to recover by unlocking the true value of data.

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“Today, data is the new currency and digital transformation has enabled companies to collect vast amounts of data that were previously unimaginable. However, the problem is not a lack of data, but making sense of this data. Since it is an inexhaustible resource – one that is extremely fluid, sometimes volatile, and continually evolving – processes need to be refined and properly structured.

“Indeed, data is often locked in documents, which limits how actionable it is and the insight it can provide, therefore hindering the benefits of digital transformation. The implementation of a new framework will be crucial to helping businesses connect data across processes, systems and storage, ultimately solving the issue of disconnected and unstructured data.

“Only by putting data at the core of any digital transformation project, unifying all systems of record and ensuring complete visibility, can there be any real actionable insight and true data-intelligence. By doing so, companies can ensure the mitigation of risk, ensure compliance and, ultimately, boost overall revenue and help to propel our economic recovery.”

The full policy publication of the National Data Strategy can be found here.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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Data Strategy
UK Government