If you have been involved in the national debate around Data Sharing, you might be aware that this Friday marks the closing point of the public consultation on Better Use of Data in Government.
For Involve this is a particularly exciting time as we are in the middle of supporting the newly appointed Quality Assurance Group, the next stage of the open policy making process that has led up to the consultation. The group will comment on the government’s analysis of consultation responses to provide assurance that the government has effectively reflected the range of views within its analysis.
Quality Assurance Group Members as appointed on 13th April 2016:
Claudia Pagliari University of Edinburgh
Daniel Nesbitt Big Brother Watch
Edgar Whitley London School of Economics
Javier Ruiz Diaz Open Rights Group
Kieron O’Hara University of Southampton
Matthew Woollard UK Data Archive
Roeland Beerten Royal Statistical Society
Vanessa Cuthill Economic and Social Research Council
A bit of context if you are new to the discussion: In 2012 the Cabinet Office started developing proposals that would set new standards for the sharing of citizen data between government departments and selected public authorities. The argument is that improving government officials’ access to data will streamline public service delivery, keep research and official statistics up to date, and generally contribute to the modernisation of government work.
While data sharing brings a number of potential benefits, it also brings with it potential risks to privacy and information protection. In order to reflect on this and to strengthen the proposals, the Cabinet Office decided to involve interested parties from civil society, and opened up the process of the policy’s development.
Over the past two years Involve has convened a number of workshops, binging together civil society organisations, privacy groups, academics and officials from across government national, local and non-departmental public bodies. The debates covered detailed elements of the policy, and included discussions on definitions, scope, purpose and safeguards. The sustained engagement played an important role in reshaping the initial proposals and informed the understanding and thinking of those involved.
It has been a fascinating process so far, and we are excited to be carrying the open policy making process through in to the consultation phase in the form of the Quality Assurance Group. This is the first time, to the best of our knowledge, that the government has opened a consultation process to external review. We believe that this is a milestone towards greater transparency and as a pilot could make a real impact to open governance within the UK.
Last week Involve has finalised the selection process. The group was drawn from civil society and academia, and selected on the basis of the extent of their knowledge of the policy proposal areas as well as their commitment to and experience of the open policy making process. After advising on a proposed approach to analysing consultation responses, the group will meet on the 28th of April to discuss the government’s final piece of analysis. A summary of the debate will be made available by Involve in the form of a Quality Assurance Report, and be published the same day as the official consultation report.
Image Credit: Kjetil Korslien, Flickr Creative Commons