Published on May 2, 2014

Data sharing open policy process

Data sharing open policy process

By Tim Hughes

Tim is Involve's incoming director, taking over from 21st January 2017. Tim has led campaigns and advocacy on open government; advised national, devolved and local governments, civil society organisations and multilateral institutions; and researched and written on topics including public participation, open government, democratic reform, civil society advocacy and public administration.

Share?This open policy process is intended to support civil society organisations, independent experts, and government departments to explore the benefits, risks, limitations and governance for sharing personal data within government.

The Government is keen to explore whether some of the barriers to sharing and linking different datasets in government can be removed in order to develop a better understanding of the economy and society, deliver more targeted and joined-up public services, and save public money lost through fraud, error and debt.

While the Government anticipates several benefits from simplifying the data sharing process and move beyond a complex system of often esoteric regulations, it is also aware of citizens’ concerns over privacy. There is awareness among ministers and civil servants alike that any changes need to be developed through an open and transparent process to maintain citizens’ trust and support. Proposals need to be designed in such a way as to guarantee safeguards for people’s privacy and the protection of their data.

Involve is coordinating a diverse range of civil society groups and experts to collaborate with government stakeholders to jointly develop a policy paper (which could become a White Paper). The Cabinet Office Data Sharing Policy Team coordinate governmental actors involved in the process. The paper will be the result of working groups examining the costs and benefits of data sharing and the conditions under which it should/ should not be allowed, as well as specific safeguards that need to be put in place.

Involving such diverse perspectives from inside and outside Government is likely to translate into diverging views on certain issues. The policy paper will highlight areas of agreement and disagreement and include both proposals where there is broad consensus among all the actors and proposals where competing ideas have emerged. Transparent cooperation is expected from all involved and the process is based on three main principles:

  • Transparency, as all documents relevant to the process  will be open by default, unless there is a strong case for restricting access;
  • Accessibility, as the process is open to anyone with the interest and expertise to engage;
  • Collaboration, as all groups are expected to engage in a constructive way.

While the main focus will be on immediate policy issues, where Government controls personal data, our work will also cover wider issues that might require further analysis in the future. Once signed off by working groups, the policy paper will undergo a public scrutiny process to guarantee public engagement and outreach on the issue.

The details of this open policy process, including the intended output and principles for working together, can be found on the What we’re doing section of the Data sharing website.

While the focus of this work is data sharing across Government departments, it does not involve the care.data initiative which is led by NHS England. An outline of initial ideas and proposals from the Cabinet Office can be found on the Current proposals section of the website.

We’re looking for civil society organisations, experts and stakeholders to get involved. Please show your interest by signing up to the mailing list.

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