Is your organisation excited or concerned about the possibilities of data? Most likely both sentiments apply.
Amid the growing regulatory and corporate attention and activity focused on data, it’s difficult to keep track of what is essential for organisations to be aware of (legally) but also the emerging themes that policymakers, businesses and civil society believe are most important.
In this vein, it’s worth checking out the agenda of the National Data Strategy Forum (NDSF), whose creation was announced by the government six months ago ‘to help the country seize opportunities’ following the publication of the ‘National Data Strategy’.
The NDSF’s mission is to ‘challenge and champion’ the strategy, which was published 14 months ago, and ‘drive further stakeholder engagement as the strategy is put into action’.
Co-chaired by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and techUK’s director for technology and innovation Sue Daley, the NDSF is organising discussions ‘to help shape the future vision’ of the strategy, as well as aiming to encourage collaboration among ‘key advocates and influencers from a cross-section of stakeholder groups’.
The NDSF’s inaugural meeting was on 22 June, bringing together (virtually) about 30 ‘experts and enthusiasts’ to discuss topics including increasing public trust (the most prominent theme), cross-sector co-ordination, boosting data skills and enabling innovation.
Five priority areas
The former minister for media and data, John Whittingdale, who attended the inaugural meeting, has published specific challenges for the NDSF, including ‘helping forge the right connections with others in the data ecosystem – both domestic and international’; helping government engagement with the public about the potential benefits of data use; and ‘working to identify future opportunities, and provide constructive challenge to help make the National Data Strategy the best it can be’.
Daley, meanwhile, published a blog last week taking stock of what has happened so far and setting out the forum’s agenda.
Five priority areas where engagement and collaboration are seen as most important have been identified and comprise the NDSF’s workplan: ‘unlocking the power of data for everyone everywhere’; trust in data; data reforms; net zero (‘data infrastructure is energy-intensive, but data collection and analysis can also support environmental sustainability by enhancing the energy efficiency of supply chains and production’); and monitoring and evaluation.
Reflecting the increasingly busy data governance agenda, and forming part of the backdrop to the forum’s work, Whitehall continues to run consultations: one on reforms to the UK’s data protection regime closes very shortly (19 November) and a call for evidence on the government’s proposed National Data Strategy indicator suite (for monitoring and evaluating the strategy) closes on 3 December.
In respect of the NDSF itself, a government-run webpage has been created as a hub for guest blogs and showcasing examples of ‘the power of data in action’. This will grow and evolve, reflecting the forum’s own mission.
‘Now is a great time to get involved’
As you might expect given its stated ambitions, there’s good news if you’re interested to find out more – and, indeed, get involved. Within all five workplan areas there are opportunities for people and organisations interested in data to participate in the NDSF’s activities, Daley says.
“The forum’s fluid nature reflects the fact that the way data is used will continue to change and the way technology is used will continue to change,” she tells City AM.
“Businesses and organisations want to do the right thing and understand their legal requirements,” she says. “But I think ‘data confidence’ is growing across organisations in general and there’s growing realisation that data-driven decision-making has the potential to be transformative.”
Discussions themselves will be necessarily limited to ensure conversations can be focused and action oriented. But for each meeting the aim is to convene multi-disciplinary expertise and “fresh perspectives from up and down the country”.
“The work of the forum is really open to everyone,” Daley says. “Now is a great time to get involved and we are keen to hear from people and organisations that want to help make data use in the UK the best it can be. That could be people and organisations involved with data who have experience to share, as well as those who want to understand and know more.”
Ian Hall also explored the opportunities and challenges created by data on 13 September (‘Digital data skills’ significance on the rise for UK Plc’) and 9 July (‘Workforces key to capitalising on the data deluge’)