Over half of civil servants believe central government should gain new powers to promote data policy compliance across the civil service | NTT DATA

Tue, 09 February 2021 - 6.01

Over half of civil servants believe central government should gain new powers to promote data policy compliance across the civil service

  • Research conducted across the civil service by NTT DATA UK found that 3 times as many people are in favour of central government gaining additional powers to promote compliance with data policies, compared to those who are against it
  • 93 per cent of respondents recognise the need to make better use of data in order to improve policy formation and transform public services delivered to citizens 
  • Nearly half of respondents were unaware whether their employer had a published data strategy 
  • Four-fifths of respondents believe central government should establish better training and professional development for data professionals

New research by NTT DATA UK, a world leader in digital, data and technology services solicited civil servants’ views on the government’s data agenda and revealed an overwhelming recognition of the need to make better use of data within government. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents stated that better use of data is ‘absolutely essential’, while a further 30 per cent agreed that it’s ‘very important’.

The research, conducted across the civil service, supported many of the aims of the recently published National Data Strategy. However, these need to be reflected back in individual departmental strategies, which are not currently very visible – nearly half of respondents (49%) were unaware whether their employer had a data strategy published at all. To improve clarity on data strategy across the civil service, over half of respondents believe that central government should have more power to promote compliance with data policies, with three times as many people agreeing that stronger levers are needed (53%), compared to those against the idea (17%).

This month, the Cabinet Office will establish the Central Digital and Data Office for Government (CDDO), which will act as the new strategic centre for Digital, Data and Technology for the Government. This will help direct the civil service on how data should be used to help improve public services. Civil servants were asked to name their three top priorities for data use and nearly two-thirds (65%) included improvements to evidence-based policymaking. Other priorities identified by respondents included:

  • Using data to target services at the points of greatest need (52%)
  • Providing a single point of access to multiple public services and supporting data-sharing between them (40%)
  • Assessing the impact of public spending and services, supporting better evaluation of policies and services (37%)

Future of data in government

Looking ahead, respondents were asked which three activities their employers should prioritise to improve their use of data. Over half of respondents named strong and visible leadership (55%), followed by the introduction of common standards and frameworks (50%) and establishing a data management framework, which would provide visibility on datasets’ quality, provenance and handling (48%).

The research also asked civil servants about how central government could promote better use of data throughout the civil service, and the vast majority of respondents (80%) believed that the establishment of better training and professional development for data is an important way to achieve this goal. Creating central data hubs for integrated and collating datasets is another option highlighted by almost three quarters of respondents (72%), while changes to legislation to support data sharing was also earmarked as a way for central government to improve its data strategy by 67% of respondents.

Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK commented: “Businesses across all industries have been aware of the benefits of being data-driven for the last decade and COVID-19 has only accelerated the need to put data at the heart of their organisations. The government is no different and solid progress has been made to improve the use of data, particularly throughout the pandemic. The newly created Central Digital and Data Office will only further strengthen Government’s progress in the data field.

“It is interesting to note so many respondents were in agreement that the government should have stronger levers to promote data compliance throughout the civil service. It shows that change needs to come from the centre and highlights that civil servants are fully supportive of government’s continuing focus on unlocking the potential of data, as a means of enhancing both civil servant and citizen experience.”

Bill Wilson, Head of Data & Intelligence Solutions, at NTT DATA UK, added: “I welcome the level of interest in using data more effectively in government, particularly as most of the civil servants who responded came from outside specialist Digital or Data roles. Although I’ve been working with data technology platforms for over 20 years, I recognise that technology isn’t the biggest challenge. Our survey found that leadership and strategy were crucial – and when this works, data-driven decision making can be promoted throughout the organisation. Providing training to civil servants - another need identified by the respondents in this report – can empower them to gain insights from the data in a self-service way that drives improvements to policy and public services.”

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