Working to make government more effective

Case study

Legislation to support data sharing

What lessons does government need to learn about data sharing from the Covid pandemic?

Data and transparency

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 bringing together public servants and others involved in previous attempts to pass and implement data sharing legislation. It found that:

  • Legislation around data sharing has helped give certainty, scale good practice, force useful conversations and get things done, including facilitating data sharing that needed to happen during the pandemic. But it can be difficult to get right first time, have unintended consequences and can be difficult to understand
  • Engaging the public from the start about how their data is used is critically important. This engagement should focus on policies, purpose and decisions rather than abstract discussions around data, and needs to include those affected by data-related decisions at an early stage
  • Everyday scenarios and case studies that talk about the benefits of data sharing (and missed opportunities from not sharing data) can help politicians understand data issues, but senior leaders should be expected to have a degree of data literacy
  • Legislation is not the main barrier to data sharing across government – other cultural and organizational barriers are, including a lack of awareness of powers, fear of using them, and different levels of capability and capacity across government.

This is the first of six papers in the series, each based on a roundtable discussion around a particular case study or theme. The others will be published in December 2022 and January 2023, 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.

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