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DIT's Data Workspace - all our data, in one place

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is committed to
supporting its people to make data-driven decisions. To help do this, we
created Data Workspace, which allows colleagues across the
department to collaborate, share, and safely store their data.

The service has two main components: a suite of tools which staff can
use to analyse data and create dashboards, and a data catalogue
which DIT, and other government departments, can use to access existing data or dashboards. Data Workspace was created in 2019 and
now hosts over 40 billion rows of data from over 200 different sources
as well as more than a dozen analysis tools. Options for tools include
JupyterLab and RStudio, as well as lesser known tools like Amazon Web Services (AWS) QuickSight and Theia / Superset. We even have some we’ve built ourselves!

Haur Kang, performance analyst, sitting at desk discussing data visualisation needs with two team colleagues as they view laptops.

This variety of tools and the fact that they are available to anyone who
completes mandatory civil service training, mean that people in many
different roles use them. Having a single place to search for and find
the data you need makes using it more accessible. My team provides
assistance to everyone from data scientists keen to use the latest
Natural Language Processing packages through to operational
colleagues who want to make dashboards to track their individual


Two users talk about how they use Data Workspace below:

Having recently been brought into the Civil Service as an International
Trade Adviser (ITA), where I was previously a Delivery Partner, one of
the greatest surprises to me is how accessible the data relating to my
responsibilities is: both the detail and breadth of the data, but also the
range of analytical tools I have access to. Another surprise is the
freedom for experimentation – one can follow a whim as to what might
be a useful analysis without having to justify it to anyone in advance.
Having the proper tools goes beyond the boundaries of what an over-
stretched spreadsheet can produce and these can be easily shared
with colleagues to use themselves. Choosing an appropriate level of
granularity can make the same data useful as either an overview or for
detailed examination of the data.

On the topic of support, the Data Workspace team offer a great amount
of technical support and patience whilst learning to use these tools,
which is very encouraging. Data analysis allows us to accurately
understand a situation and look in the right place for solutions and
allowing the average user to do this themselves is an extremely
powerful tool.

- Stephen Banks (International Trade Adviser)


Three people sitting at a table looking at laptop. One person is pointing at the screen.

I'm Tayyib and I'm on the Digital, Data &; Technology Fast Stream.
Previously, I was a Data Scientist at the National Situation Centre
(SitCen) in Cabinet Office. My role in SitCen largely involved analysing
data from a range of sources across HMG to produce meaningful
insight for senior officials during crises. I’ve moved across to DIT as a
Data Engineer, building new pipelines and developing the Data
Workspace environment in line with GDS service standards.

My previous experience with data infrastructure largely involved using
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other related analytical tools for
ingestion, data processing and analysis. AWS is a great platform,
however can be relatively inaccessible and at times overwhelming for
less data-experienced and tech-savvy users.

Data Workspace uses an AWS back-end but spins the infrastructure
into a significantly more accessible platform, removing a lot of the
hassle. It means that less data-experienced and tech-savvy users can
easily pull data using SQL, produce analysis in Python or R and
visualise insight creating dashboards in AWS QuickSight or maps in
QGIS. A huge advantage to using Data Workspace is that it can also be
shared across HMG and hosts the bulk of data that DIT uses on
everything related to trade, economic productivity and investment.

- Tayyib Saddique (Data Engineer)

If you want to work with our team designing and supporting Data
Workspace, you can sign up for job alerts here.

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