We are aiming for a government that is joined up, trusted, and responsive as part of our vision for the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) profession. Better use of data is key to delivering this which will lead to better services for our users. Data standards, by enabling government to record data in a consistent way, give teams access to high-quality data that can be shared easily and securely to improve services for the end users.
With this in mind, the Spring Budget announced new funding for a cross-government Data Standards Authority (DSA) that will, over the next 3 years, put in place a common core infrastructure to join up government and fix the foundations with which it operates. GDS is leading this work, closely collaborating with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and other government organisations to determine priorities. Read our latest blog post for information on the recent leadership changes across the DDaT profession.
We need a shared data infrastructure for digital
The key building blocks of a data infrastructure are data standards. Data standards will help government users in different departments share the same understanding of what information should represent, how trusted it is and how best to find it.
For data standards to be really transformative, they need to work across the whole of the public sector including local government. We know that siloed approaches just don’t work and can lead to far too much duplication and waste. We can’t delay a coordinated response to fixing the foundations any longer. The DSA is already working to improve collaboration and adoption of common data standards across government. Creating a common core infrastructure using shared data standards can help us deliver truly user-centric, whole government services that cross organisational boundaries.
Working across government
We’ve been engaging with departments, practitioners and data communities to understand how we prioritise areas for standardising data, and identify the related user needs to understand why particular standards matter. As we select areas for prioritisation, we’re keen to build on some of the good work already being led by departments, agencies and local authorities to avoid duplicating efforts. We’ve also been supporting the Open Standards Board to figure out how we can best work with open, international data standards communities like schema.org. This means we can make sure any updates or new releases work for the government and end users, and ensure our combined needs are reflected in their work.
Preparing to make a difference: our workstreams
We believe the data standards we’re beginning to prioritise will lead to improvements across government and carry immediate impact. Particular priorities for us at the moment include helping government organisations meet the needs of their users, improving transparency of the data exchange landscape and assisting with the pandemic response. We’re still making sure we have a firm understanding of what's needed, where, and to what extent, but some of the workstreams we’ve already got going include:
- Metadata standards and related guidance to help improve data quality. This has been the first objective of the DSA and sets out how data should be recorded and shared across government.
- Encouraging government teams to update the API Catalogue with their APIs to improve data exchange transparency. We’re also iterating the Government API Standards to include guidance on GraphQL, data streaming and OpenAPI 3.
- A maturity model for data to understand the levels of data standards maturity across government.
- Developing an assurance and assessment process for data to ensure the standards are implemented.
- Improving data governance so the standards are recognised by people working in government service teams or buying new technology. This includes adding more data related content to the Technology Code of Practice, the Service Manual and the Design System.
- Supporting the government data communities by bringing the different communities together to help them to feed into our work.
As part of our mapping work, we’ve engaged with most government departments, local councils and the Local Government Association. We’ve still got more engagement planned but please do contact us if your work is relevant to our remit, we’d love to hear from you.