Unlocking the Power of Open Knowledge and Interoperability Across Government Services

Julia Esgate Christmas

The first-ever Government Data event, which took place on 7th July 2022 hosted the Keynote Panel: Unlocking the Power of Open Knowledge and Interoperability Across Government Services.

Moderated by our chair, Lisa Allen, the session hosted some fantastic speakers including: 

  • Charlie Boundy, Head of Data Science, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Jim Tonner, Open Data Project Officer, Transformation, Policy & Performance, Stirling Council 
  • Sam Cannicott, Deputy Director of Projects, Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) 
  • Sue Bateman, Interim Chief Data Officer, Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) 

The session kicked off with an extensive discussion on whether open data is the answer to public misinformation, with Jim Tonner raising the important point that ‘you cannot just publish data on its own, you must provide context. It is important that the context provides transparency, as well as the datasets themselves’. Charlie Boundy agreed with Jim’s point adding that ‘some of that transparency (surrounding open data) is quite challenging, but we understand it’s the right thing to do’. Sue Bateman emphasised the importance of consistency across open data within Central and Local government when presenting their data. Sam Cannicott used his experience from the CDEI to mention that there is an issue with ‘transparency for all data’, stating that in some cases, such as when they’ve worked closely with the Ministry of Defence, that it would not be appropriate. He wrapped up his points by saying, ‘transparency in certain contexts is different and challenging and you need to recognise that there's some data it isn't appropriate for’. 

The panel’s discussion was led by Lisa Allen who pinned the question of whether the responsibility of open data should be only between government departments, or whether public accessibility to this open data should be more apparent, and how this visibility helps social mobility and social disparities. Charlie Boundy explained their process of contextual data, and the process of being checked within QA, but Covid ‘fundamentally proved to us that we need to move faster than we did previously, and we need to understand what’s going on day to day’. Charlie also emphasised that a lot of their data is ‘typically about the most vulnerable people in society, and moving that data around is still quite slow, difficult and risk averse’. 

Regarding improving data sharing between organisations within the public sector, Sue Bateman looked retrospectively on data in the past, and the issues of legacy systems, where technology and architecture needs to come together. Sam Cannicott agreed with Sue, further adding that ‘the risk isn’t always that the data is shared, sometimes the risk is not sharing the data, and this raises some ethical questions’. Overall, our panel agreed that there was plenty of work to be done, and further collaboration is required in the future to ensure consistency and efficiency interdepartmentally.  

Discussions continued further, as each member of our panel openly discussed the future of open data and interoperability, they drew upon each other’s unique experiences from across the UK’s public sector organisations. The full session is available to view below.  

Government Data will return in 2023, this time live and in-person, co-located with GovTech and the Quantum Advantage Summit Find out more here.