Data in Policy Making with The ODI

Resham Kotecha

The ODI describes data assurance as “the process, or set of processes, that increase confidence that data will meet a specific need, and that organisations collecting, accessing, using and sharing data are doing so in trustworthy ways”.

Having access to good data, and confidence that it is trustworthy, allows policy makers to make strategic decisions about how best to use taxpayers’ money – and wider national resources – to help people who need it most. The more data we have, the better quality the data is, and the more we can overlay data sets and link them, the more we can inform and shape policy to tackle issues in an effective way.

I recently provided evidence to the Social Mobility Committee in a session about “Intergenerational Inequality and Social Mobility”. I wore two hats, so to speak. In addition to my role at the ODI, I was appointed by the Cabinet Office to be a Social Mobility Commissioner – and in this position, I spend two days a month holding the government to account, and advising them on how to improve social mobility.

Data can help us understand social mobility and how systemic shocks impact a wide range of outcomes. Data collected from before, during, and after the pandemic, for example, helps us to see the impact – and likely ongoing consequences – of Covid-19. Some of the consequences will need to be tracked for years to come to see the true impact. We know, for example, that students from families that had to use food banks during the pandemic had GCSE grades that were on average half a grade lower than expected.

From previous Social Mobility Commission work, we also know that even before the pandemic, the poorest children started school four and a half months behind their peers. By the time they leave school at 18, they are 18 and a half months behind their more privileged peers. We already knew that those differences were an issue before the pandemic, and it is important that we have as many interoperable data sets as possible so that we can get the most accurate picture possible about the impact on children and young people. This means not only being able to see data on education outcomes but also on health, mental health, employment, welfare, and housing.

As the ODI has said before, it is really important that the government opens up data, and that we shift to a viewpoint where data is viewed as public infrastructure.

When it comes to policy, what gets measured gets done. At the ODI, we will continue to advocate for open data, data assurance and better data skills and knowledge for all.

Resham Kotecha is Head of Policy at the Open Data Institute where she leads public policy work, along with efforts to work with governments to improve data ecosystems and data policy. A longer version of this article along with clips of Resham speaking at the Treasury Select Committee on Data and Policy Making can be found here.

Resham will be taking part in the panel Unlocking the Power of Data in Government: Tackling barriers in infrastructure, interoperability, and investment, at GovTech, co-located with Government Data and the Quantum Advantage Summit on Wednesday 18 October, exploring how government an unlock the full potential of open data and improve data sharing in government and the public sector. Secure your free place here.