Digital data: The British experience (Part I)
UK is among the most developed countries in digital government.
During my review of global trends and practices in the field of digital government, I came across an analytical article by Dawn Duhaney, former policy adviser and community lead at the UK’s Government Digital Service.
Duhaney assessed the process of the UK Government in adopting data as a basis for improving and developing its decision-making and policy-making mechanisms. Duhaney’s opinion is based on her two-year stint at the UK Government.
The United Kingdom is among the most developed countries in digital government and one of the pioneering models in digital data. Given the importance of this topic in modern government work, I decided to summarise Duhaney’s analysis. I shall write in two parts: reasons for success and areas for improvement. This article will focus on the reasons for success.
Duhaney points out that the UK Government has an impressive team of professionals with skills in the field of data. The team works with passion and determination to change the way in which digital data is dealt with by the Government. It works in harmony and integration without departmental boundaries. They exchange knowledge and support each other in a way that’s not often seen even in academia.
The “data science community” in the UK Government is characterised by diversity, contrary to the prevailing perception that data practitioners are alike or even identical in their knowledge and roles. There are data advocates who specialise in spreading the culture of data and advocating for it. Data-sharing brokers get the data needed and manage relationships with custodians, researchers, data cleaners and machine-learning experts. And, data storytellers communicate findings to decision-makers and tell a compelling narrative about the problem they have solved.
Duhaney refers to another aspect that is related to data analysis. She believes that there is a fundamental difference between traditional analysis and data science, and this has been absorbed well by the UK Government. In traditional analysis, a decision-maker requests a specific piece of analysis of a situation, phenomenon or problem,
and gets the result from the specialists in his department. Then, decisions are made accordingly. However, in data science, assumptions and models are tested multiple times to reach optimal results.
The advantage of this process is that it creates a relationship of harmony and common understanding between the technical and non-technical teams, and it has proven its utility and advantages in providing distinguished services and products that meet the aspirations of users.
This is a call for reflection and self-evaluation for governmental and private institutions that are interested in being a part of the era of digital data.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government and Director General, TRA
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