What is the National Open Data Strategy and How is it Implemented?

Piers Kelly

Data underpins everyday life and most of the things we do within it. It allows the government, public bodies, businesses and individuals to make informed decisions, encouraging innovation and growth throughout every sector.

UK government open data strategy

Due to the wealth of data available being so vast, it can be difficult to know where to start when harnessing it for future growth and development. This is where the UK government open data strategy comes into play.


The UK Government and Open Data

Open data is data anyone can freely access and use. It can inspire innovation, create greater efficiencies, provide benefits to citizens and generate more transparency.

Since 2012, the UK government has operated an ‘Open by Default’ policy for public sector data across all departments. This is to ensure accountability, efficiency and positive economic outcomes. The National Data Strategy aims to take this one step further.


What Is the National Data Strategy?

The UK National Data Strategy (NDS) was created to help public sector organisations utilise data to innovate, experiment and drive new growth. The aim was to position the UK as one of the world leaders in driving data transformation. The NDS is dedicated to changing views on data use, seeing it as an opportunity to embrace rather than something to be protective over.

With any new government strategy comes potential challenges and next steps you must be aware of when adopting and tailoring the principles for your organisation.


How Can Open Data Be Used?

Open data can encourage economic, social and environmental benefits, with the ability to positively impact all aspects of life.

When combined with context, raw data can be transformed into information, which can then be turned into knowledge. This knowledge has many benefits for governments, businesses and individuals, informing decisions that allow for greater efficiencies, improving services, business growth and knowledge sharing.

Through the UK government’s Find Open Data Service, anyone can access data published by the central government, local authorities and public bodies to improve policy-making and public services.


What Are the Core National Data Strategy Priority Areas for Action?

The NDS outlines a framework that identifies key pillars, actions and opportunities to help drive the better use of data within the UK.

National Data Strategy framework

The framework identifies four key pillars; quality data foundations, data skills, data availability and responsible data. These fundamental principles underpin the priority areas of action to ensure data is taken advantage of to enable opportunities. The key steps are as follows:

  1. Unlocking the value of data across the economy. Ensuring data is usable, accessible and available to all.
  2. Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime. Data should benefit everyone, no matter the business size while ensuring people have confidence and trust in how data is used.
  3. Transforming government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services. Data should be shared to help and protect people. As a result, the government is overhauling how it efficiently manages, uses and shares data.
  4. Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies. The data infrastructure needs protection against security risks and concerns, ensuring information remains safe and secure.
  5. Championing the international flow of data. The flow of information across borders has significant economic and societal benefits. Since leaving the EU, the UK has greater scope to establish itself as a leader and can continue demonstrating the opportunities that data can deliver.

This all works together to ensure data allows for growth across every sector — providing jobs, improving public services and society, and fuelling future research.


How Can the Public Benefit From an Open Data Policy?

By adopting an open and transparent approach to data, the UK government can build greater levels of trust with the general public and deliver more cost-effective, and better targeted and tailored services to their needs.

An open data policy also contributes to more engaging relationships between citizens and governments. It allows the public to access more data that can help them shape their decisions.


What Are the Challenges of Open Data?

Although open data has many positives, it doesn’t come without its challenges. A key challenge of open data is awareness. Although the UK is investing heavily in progressing in the data sphere, not all businesses know the impact and potential benefits.

In addition to this, there are still issues of trust surrounding data. Is it safe? Is it reliable? Is it of good quality?

The organisation of open data is also a fundamental challenge to keep in mind. Data is often published in awkward, inconsistent ways that can be difficult to access or link together.

The UK NDS and open data policy aim to reduce these challenges and streamline utilising data. Through the core framework principles, continuous awareness building and the commitment to improve, this strategy could see the UK become a world leader when it comes to data.

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