The response to the coronavirus pandemic brought data to the heart of government decision making like never before – but what lessons does government need to learn about data sharing from the experience?
This paper summarises a roundtable discussion that brought together public servants and academics mostly involved in sharing individual and locally-aggregated Covid infections and vaccination uptake data, and also drew on other aspects of data sharing between national, devolved and local government. It found that:
Technical difficulties slowed data sharing between national organisations and local government. Once this was overcome, local authorities were able to make timely health interventions.
Establishing the necessary data sharing agreements to share data across organisations and levels of government took time. This could be simplified by creating a pre-agreed data sharing framework that sets out what data could be shared in what format and with whom – an approach that helped the pandemic response in Wales via the Welsh Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information.
The uneven level of data skills in local authorities necessitated certain early datasets being provided in simple spreadsheet-based formats to guarantee the data could be quickly handled. New data initiatives, such as Local Data Spaces, provided less data-able local authorities with analysis to advise their public health interventions. But local government should invest in and develop its data skilled workforce.
UK government would benefit from co-creating data and digital services with local government, bringing together those collecting and providing data with those using the data, to better inform decisions about data and enable better analysis.
This is the fifth of six papers in the series, each based on a roundtable discussion around a particular case study or theme. The remaining paper will be published shortly, with a short report drawing together key themes and lessons to follow in February 2023.
We would like to thank Scott Logic for supporting this project. Read more from Scott Logic about the Data Sharing in Government research project on their website.