DCMS blog

National Data Strategy Forum: themes from the first discussion

John Whittingdale


John Whittingdale

Minister for Media and Data

Minister for Media and Data, John Whittingdale shares his reflections on the National Data Strategy Forum discussion held on Tuesday 22 June

National Data Strategy

I was delighted to co-chair the first National Data Strategy Forum last week, along with Sue Daley of techUK. I would like to express thanks to Sue and the techUK team for working with us to make this happen. 

I have always said that Government cannot – and should not – deliver on the ambitions of the National Data Strategy alone. The consultation exercise was helpful for validating our framework but we know that we can’t stop there – we need to implement the strategy and we need to keep our ear to the ground to understand how the framework needs to evolve. 

That’s why I was so pleased to co-chair the Forum and be a part of these discussions. Over 30 experts and enthusiasts from across the data ecosystem joined with us to explore how we can work together to make the UK the world’s number one data destination. 

I found the discussions extremely valuable and informative, with a strong strand of healthy challenge and debate which is so important in any venture. 

What we heard

Participants contributed a wide range of ideas on what the Forum could focus on.

The most prominent theme, which came up in every one of our six breakout discussions, was that of building public trust. 

Participants talked about how the UK data ecosystem might work together to grow public understanding and build trust. They discussed how important this work will be to our ability to deliver on the NDS vision, and how important it is that this work is a shared endeavour – it is not something any one sector or institution can achieve in isolation. Participants also noted the impact of data literacy on people’s ability to make informed choices about data and about consumer expectations for data to be used to improve our experience of services.

Another discussion topic was how the Forum could be used to share insights and best practice, knowledge and experience – to encourage and enable innovation, and help unlock the value of data across the economy. Participants considered how to leverage and amplify the knowledge and experience that is held in larger businesses or member bodies to support SMEs and small organisations across the ecosystem.

Some conversations covered the NDS’s framing of data as an asset which can support economic and social benefits. Participants noted there is still a need to embed this view more widely, and discussed whether the Forum could work together to support a change in mindset. And linked to this, participants talked about what they considered a false dichotomy between ‘responsible data use’ and ‘exciting innovation’ and the need to grow understanding that the strategy can support both.

A final theme of debate was the importance of the strategy’s pillars of better data use (foundations, skills, availability and responsibility); as these are necessary to achieving the NDS’s vision. Participants considered how Government and Forum participants could support the wider data ecosystem to develop skills, leadership and culture of better data use. They noted that Government needs to continue taking a leadership role in terms of sharing high quality and accessible data in standard formats, opening up its data for commercial benefit and social good. They also discussed how to encourage the availability of private sector data that is fit for purpose, measureable and understood. 

Next Steps

We want to keep to our commitment to deliver the strategy through collaboration and in a way that builds public trust and ensures the opportunities from better data use work for everyone, everywhere. 

Collaboration and action is vital to this mission and that’s why I shared three specific challenges with the participants in last week’s discussion. 

  • Firstly, to work with us to develop collaborative programmes of work to support the delivery of the National Data Strategy; by providing insight and expertise and helping forge the right connections with others in the data ecosystem – both domestic and international.
  • Secondly, to support us in engaging the wider public about the potential benefits of data use; and help us to embed the principles and goals of the National Data Strategy more widely.
  • And thirdly, to help shape the development of the future vision for the Strategy.  Work with us to identify future opportunities, and provide constructive challenge to help us make the NDS the best it can be.

It was fantastic to hear such enthusiasm from participants to take up these challenges. 

Participants talked about how to use the Forum to bring together diverse groups to explore ways to create ambitious government, civil society, academic and industry collaborations.

They also discussed the importance of sharing learning and best practice. Participants were keen to grasp the opportunity of the Forum to encourage and enable innovation more widely across their networks and the data ecosystem.

The will is there, and it’s now for us to turn that into action. 

The next step is to set out how we will focus the energy and enthusiasm of our initial discussion. The National Data Strategy Forum secretariat is giving careful consideration to the many points, ideas and suggestions from our discussion, and will be working with our co-chair techUK over the coming weeks to set out detailed plans for future Forum activities. 

Getting Involved

If you want to get involved in future Forum discussions then we’d be grateful if you could let us know by completing this short form*. Discussions themselves will be necessarily limited to ensure conversations can be focused and action oriented. For each Forum discussion we will prioritise diversity of representation, bringing together multidisciplinary expertise and fresh perspectives from up and down the country. 

However, even if you aren’t able to join us for a Forum discussion there will be plenty of other opportunities to get involved and support the implementation of the National Data Strategy – to stay up to date on these opportunities, and the Forum, please sign up to our NDS newsletter.

We are also always interested to hear about new data initiatives, research, or examples of data use for social and economic good, and we encourage contributions to the newsletter. If you would like to share case studies, a new report, or contribute a guest blog post, please get in touch with the team at nationaldatastrategy@dcms.gov.uk

*If you are not able to use this link you can email your response to nationaldatastrategy@dcms.gov.uk or post to:

National Data Strategy (NDS)
100 Parliament Street
4th Floor

The attendee list for the National Data Strategy Forum discussion held on 22 June will be published shortly pending attendee consent.

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