Policymakers urged to ‘ensure unambiguous rules and plan to share data’ in checklist to ensure digital-readiness of government policy

A checklist of four considerations has been published by the Central Digital and Data Office to ensure that policy is designed so as to be effective in the digital world

Government policymakers have been provided with a checklist of guidelines intended to ensure that government policy is created to operate effectively in a digital world.

The Central Digital and Data Office has published a new Digital Readiness Check for use by policy professionals, or teams comprised of different disciplines and working on policy or other government initiatives.

The guidance sets out four main considerations that, in concert, are “designed to ensure that new and existing policy can be implemented effectively through modern digital delivery channels”.

The four instructions on the checklist are:

  • Ensure clear, simple and unambiguous rules
  • Assume digital delivery by default
  • Plan for interoperability, sharing and reuse of data
  • Use existing, common infrastructure

To ensure clarity and reduce ambiguity, officials are advised to “minimise discretionary assessments… [and use] clear, simple, unambiguous and consistent terms”, while ensuring there is a “clear distinction between general rules and exceptions”.

Policy should also be tested with “a wide range of stakeholders” and “options for automating the delivery of the policy objective” should also have been examined.

Considerations of digital delivery by default include establishing whether “the necessary legal basis exists for digital interaction” between government and citizens, as well as ensuring that “legislation [is] worded so as to allow for future technological development”.

Interoperability and getting the most out of data may involve examining whether existing public data sets can be reused to achieve policy objectives – and challenging the assumption that additional data collection is necessary. Policymakers should also work with security experts to ensure data protection is built into their plans.

The final point of the checklist asks that officials look to existing tech infrastructure to deliver new policy, where possible, and – where new deployments are required – to minimise their scale and challenge any assumptions of their necessity. Policy professionals and their colleagues should also ask where “benefits [could] be realised through integration with existing/related policy delivery levers and infrastructure”.

Sam Trendall

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