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This year’s Public Sector Data Summit, hosted in Westminster’s QEII, consisted of panel sessions with back-to-back guest speakers educating us on recent innovations and challenges across the data sphere. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event which I attended alongside colleagues and our guest speaker, Paul Charnley from Wirral Healthy Partners. I have collated my recollections from the day to promote a greater understanding of recent developments, which is vital when you consider the vast sums spent on technology in the public sector- £20.3 billion last year alone.

Technology is imperative in driving efficiencies but, without a robust data strategy and constructive planning, it is like having the ingredients for a cake without knowing the recipe. The government’s ‘Shared Service Strategy’ addresses this and is broken down into 5 sections to provide means of operationalising and converging core functions across Central Government. This should help to prioritise data and make systems more efficient as well as improve usability by streamlining services. Prioritising data is important as it is not necessary to capture all data, but instead, focus on the data which serves to maximise efficiency. Launching a data literacy campaign could help people to understand data assets, aligning the data governance structure to the overarching strategy.

It is important to ‘fail fast’ and accept change when it comes to prototyping; changing a tyre is better than continuing to patch it up for it to inevitably burst again down the road

David Vaughton
Data and Analytics Solution Director

Much like we emphasise the importance of agility within Government, we should have an agile approach to building a strategy as, continually iterating and re-defining is not just ‘okay’ but is important. As David Vaughton, Hitachi Solutions, highlighted, it is important to ‘fail fast’ and accept change when it comes to prototyping; changing a tyre is better than continuing to patch it up for it to inevitably burst again down the road. David also reiterated how not to think of technology as compartmentalised and instead to think strategically. This translates to long-term visions and anything which holds data, including the strategic direction of the NHS. You cannot take a siloed approach to data, or you risk a repetition of the compartmentalised state of our current healthcare system, where only 20% of vocality offers full convergence for NHS electronic patient records. James Austin from NHS Digital gave a brilliant example; the NHS is a brand not a coherent organisation with each silo comparative to that of Lidl, Aldi, Waitrose and Tesco. With the pandemic having revolutionised the way we use health-saving data, it is worth looking into fraud prevention measures to provide a longstanding NHS solution as removing siloes may come with its own share of data security problems.

Empowering users is also vital to provide longstanding solutions as one must focus on what is desired as well as what is needed because, after all, there is no point in spending time and money to ultimately not support adaptability. One of the purposes of data is to provide insight to make informed decisions and with adaptability must come trust. A key issue we face is organisations are not able to use data in decision-making, for example, 1 in 2 decisions do not take full advantage of the organisational data. Building trust falls under one of the four pillars of driving a data-driven organisation, along with consolidating data and IT; business insight; and operating businesses. Measures must be taken to address the decision gap as without trusting the base data, you cannot use AI which will ultimately amplify the mistrust. AI in itself, is a multidisciplinary challenge which should take into account socioeconomic, moral and legal factors to provide a comprehensive solution fit for purpose.

All in all, a very interesting event in which I have described some of my key takeaways and inferences- I look forward to the next event!