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Report of the Digital Government Review


Is anything being done to resolve this situation?

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The current Government has started an open policy-making process to consult on new data sharing policies within the existing byzantine legal framework [68]. Although well intentioned this process is misdirected, lacks visibility, is highly technocratic and limited in its scope, being conducted largely on the government’s terms. The review has just produced its interim findings that mainly recommend more work. The civil society groups taking part in and organising the exercise are to be commended for their stamina, skill and application. But it is highly unclear whether the government will ever act on their findings or whether their writ will run beyond a specialised corner of Whitehall. We risk progress being further slowed and good, strong benefits such as academic research to improve society being hindered.

A fundamental problem is the focus on data sharing from the point-of-view of the organisations within Whitehall. This neglects the needs of local authorities, of the NHS and of the many non-public sector bodies that work with the public sector to deliver services. And it neglects the desire of people to have a measure of control over their data.

Moreover as can be seen by the meeting attendees the process is primarily receiving input from Whitehall departments and London-based civil society organisations rather than soliciting views from citizens. The process is not being promoted by the Government’s own communications channels such as the www.gov.uk website. Nor is the process addressing the concerns raised by the Law Commission.

Within more local layers of government some good progress has been made on data sharing initiatives and information sharing hubs in certain areas [69] but these typically lack visibility and are mostly being created in an uncoordinated fashion [70].

“the European Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information is an opportunity to ensure that there is a robust “open by default” policy across government. It is an opportunity to put into place a more effective, and better funded, regulator, with more leverage.” – Civil Society Organisation

[68] www.datasharing.org.uk
[69] For one of the many Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs see: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/WorkingWithChildrenInBarnet/info/40178/multi_agency_safeguarding_hub_mash
[70] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/troubled-affairs-report-publication/

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