How the ONS is helping to deliver the National Data Strategy

The UK’s National Data Strategy sets out the government’s vision for supporting the UK to build a world-leading data economy.  The Office for National Statistics is mentioned throughout and is playing a pivotal role on delivering several elements of this strategy.  In today’s blog Alison Pritchard talks through all of the work the ONS is doing for this strategy to ensure the UK is able to transform the way it uses data in order to improve decision making and the services people rely on.

The importance of data that can inform decision making has been highlighted over the last year. Throughout the pandemic, the ONS has been at the front of ensuring the country has the data it needs to fight the impacts of COVID-19.

Whether this has been monitoring COVID-19 infections through our surveys or sourcing new data working with private companies to provide fast indicators on the health of the economy, we’ve been combining our data expertise with new techniques to ensure we can adapt to this challenge.

Now we are using this expertise to ensure that the UK can use the data it has to make real change and ensure policies are helping to improve lives following the pandemic.

The government’s response to their consultation on the National Data Strategy was published on Tuesday 18 May 2021.  Here are some of the projects that were mentioned that we are already leading and why they are important.

Government Data Quality Hub and Framework

The Government Data Quality Hub (also known as DQHub) is based at the ONS and was set up in November 2020 to drive improvement in data quality across government.  Providing a wide range of products and services, the DQHub will be taking forward recommendations from the recent Joined up data in government review to help improve data linkage methods, application and skill sets across government.

The DQHub has published it’s Government Data Quality Framework which sets out an approach to establish whether the public’s data is fit for purpose through ensuring data quality work is proactive, evidence-based and targeted.

Integrated Data Programme

Announced in the National Data Strategy, the Integrated Data Programme (IDP) is a cross-Government initiative which aims to create a step change in the way data about our society and economy are made available for vital research and decision making in the UK.  The ONS is acting as the Lead Delivery Partner for the programme which will make a wealth of data and linked data from across government and other organisations easily accessible to analysts and data scientists via a secure cloud-environment.

With robust security and ethical protocols, users of the IDP will be able to access, link, analyse and disseminate a wide range of data, encouraging a new culture of data sharing and increasing research collaboration.

User research has been carried out and a cloud-based environment is being trialled which will form the basis of the technology.

Reference Data Management Framework

Through the IDP, ONS is supporting data sharing in government through a secure platform which will also provide high quality data services and tools.  The Reference Data Management Framework is a service which has been developed and created by the ONS, which will be available to the rest of government through the IDP.

The framework is made up of five indexes which link and match data on addresses, classifications, location and businesses. RDMF will allow the analysts using it to easily retrieve a wealth of connected common reference data through automatic indexing of new data to the framework.

Data skills

The National Data Strategy aims to ensure that people, businesses and organisations are sufficiently skilled to operate effectively within the data ecosystem.  As part of this the ONS’s Data Science Campus was tasked with ensuring that 500 public service analysts were trained to use data science skills by 2021.

Our campus has already exceeded this target and is continuing to develop new training options to further improve data literacy and skills across the public sector and is working in collaboration with the Government Data Science Partnership.

Next steps

This is just an overview of some of the projects the ONS is doing to ensure that the UK is able to make best use of the data it has available to it.  Follow @ONSfocus and look out for new announcements in the future as these projects develop.

Alison Pritchard is Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Data Capability at the ONS

Alison has given an interview to the Reaction news site about the work the ONS has been doing throughout the pandemic to make data available and what is coming next.  You can read her interview now.