DCMS blog

Reflections on the National Data Strategy

Phil Earl


Phil Earl

Deputy Director, Data Strategy, Implementation and Evidence, reflects on the National Data Strategy

As Deputy Director responsible for the National Data Strategy (NDS) I wanted to share some reflections about our recent consultation, and what’s next for the strategy.

We received well over 250 responses to the consultation, and I was really pleased to note the wide range of organisations and individuals represented. It reflects the ambition of the strategy, and its importance. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.

A strategy for everyone

When I first joined DCMS last year and took responsibility for the NDS, I was clear that this should be a strategy for everyone – not just the data specialists who have been making the case for years.

Data is the great opportunity of our time. The potential of its use – by individuals, organisations and Government – stretches right across society and affects every one of us. So it was right that we include as broad a range of voices as possible in the consultation.

It’s great that we have heard from so many voices over the past few months, and I’ve personally enjoyed the many conversations I’ve had with individuals and organisations up and down the country (albeit virtually). I’ve been inspired by the enthusiastic dialogue and sharing of ideas that the Strategy has prompted.

Video call business people meeting on virtual workplace or remote office. Telework conference call using smart video technology to communicate colleague in professional corporate business.

Myth busting

I’ve also come across some ‘myths’ which I’ll take a moment to address.

  1. ‘The strategy is just about Government data.’ This is not true. The NDS sets out a framework for the actions this Government will take on data, with Mission 3 focused on Government’s own use of data. But to truly deliver on the potential of data for the society we need to take action across the whole economy.
  2. ‘The strategy prioritises growth over data protection.’ It’s true that we set out to create a pro-growth and ambitious strategy, but I don’t think it is right to characterise this as a trade-off with data protection. The Strategy is clear that public trust and confidence must be at the heart of the way we use data.
  3. ‘A pro-growth data rights regime means privacy is at risk.’ Actually, the NDS sets out that we are strongly committed to ensuring that data is used in a responsible way, without which we will not realise the opportunities that digital technology and data offer us. We are, and will continue to be, a global leader in ensuring such data remains safe.

What’s next?

The consultation has now closed, but the conversation is ongoing.

This year we have all lived through huge change. The response to COVID-19 has increased our understanding of the importance of data use within the economy, society and the public sector, and in ensuring that data can be shared in timely and trustworthy ways. The UK’s exit from the EU will bring new opportunities to leverage the UK’s strengths; and ensure that we have a data regime that promotes growth and innovation, while maintaining public trust by remaining committed to high data protection standards, on which the UK is a global leader.

National Data Strategy cover image

We talk a lot about the fast-changing digital landscape, and 2020 brought new meaning to this phrase. Data policy has never been more important or the context faster changing.

We cannot – and must not – deliver the strategy alone. Collaboration between government, the private sector, education providers and civil society is vital, if we want everyone across the country to benefit from the opportunities that digital technology and data offer. That’s why it’s so important to me and the team taking forward the NDS that we maintain a regular and open dialogue.

We must now take time to do justice to the many responses we have received. You can expect to hear from us soon with an initial Government response, and what the path forward will look like during 2021.

Stay in touch

You can sign up to our newsletter for regular updates and me and my team look forward to continuing our discussions.

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