ONS to hook up with tech incubator Alacrity

The Office for National Statistics is to set up a partnership with South Wales technology incubator Alacrity to develop new and better ways of utilising its data.

Under the arrangement, formally announced by Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock, the organisations – which are both based in Newport – are expected work together to identify areas of innovation that can be driven by a start-up-style approach.

Alacrity is a charitable education foundation and funds entrepreneurs on its 12-month graduate programme to come up with solutions to problems brought forward by businesses, and which are capable of forming the basis of a new company.

Ian Courtney, its director of communications, told PT that precise areas in which Alacrity and the ONS would work together had yet to be specified.

“The foundation and ONS will work together to identify business opportunities created by the emergence of new data handling and analytical technologies,” he said.

ONS national statistician John Pullinger said it was vital that the organisation fully embraced the current revolution in data technology, and its potential to produce important indicators like employment, prices and Gross Domestic Product faster and more reliably than ever before.

“To do so we need to develop new skills and new ways of doing things,” he said. 

“We will be looking to work closely with impressive local initiatives such as the Alacrity Foundation and the National Software Academy to help make it happen.”

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 Speaking at the ONS’s Newport base last week, Matt Hancock said the partnership with Alacrity was a “great example” of how the organisation could partner with outside bodies to “nurture the brightest and best young talent”.

He said: “To succeed and thrive in this new world, where knowledge is so dispersed, we need to be as curious as possible and embrace not just our own ideas, but also those at the cutting edge of the data revolution.”

Hancock added that ministers were targeting a 75% online response rate to the 2021 census – the 2011 online response rate was 16%.

He said the government would “shortly” be announcing proposals to improve the legal framework around research and statistics, tackling fraud and debt, and sharing data between government departments.

“We want to give public authorities much greater clarity about what data can be shared, cutting delays so research with economic and social benefits can be conducted in a timely fashion,” he said.

“One big step we must take across government is to build single, canonical data registers kept up-to-date by one responsible authority and used across government.”

Jim Dunton

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