Cabinet Office signs £4m deal to deliver new government-wide Data Marketplace

Department will deploy technology from specialist agritech firm to help create new centralised platform enabling civil servants to share, access, and make use of information sets from agencies across Whitehall

The Cabinet Office has signed a £4m deal to move forward with plans for a new Data Marketplace intended to give civil servants a single “front door” through which they can access and share information generated across government.

Plans for such a platform were first trailed in the cross-government three-year digital and data roadmap published in 2022 by the Cabinet Office-based Central Digital and Data Office. Since then, an alpha version of the tool has been created – with work led by CDDO.

As the Cabinet Office plans to head into a private beta phase in which “five key departments… [will] test and integrate the Data Marketplace with their internal processes”, the department has signed a 14-month contract with Agrimetrics – a specialist tech company and creator of a data marketplace for environmental, food and farming information.

The £4.2m deal will see the firm – which was initially created by public funding from Innovate UK – provide the government with its marketplace technology on a software-as-a-service basis. This will support the beta version of the government Data Marketplace that will shortly go into limited testing mode.

The text of the contract reveals that the Agrimetrics platform is intended to deliver “efficient cross-government publication and harvesting of standardised metadata from departmental data catalogues and other repositories”.

Another objective of deploying the technology is “standardising a consistent workflow for data sharing and integrating this into existing departmental data-sharing processes”, as well as “providing an identity and access management solution to authenticate users and to authorise access to the relevant catalogue and workflow services”.

In addition to providing its software, Agrimetrics is expected to offer regular “knowledge transfer sessions with [government] staff to ensure continual knowledge transfer throughout the life of the contract”.

Over the course of the contract, which came into effect at the start of this month, the supplier may also assist with “design of future state support and maintenance required for ongoing operation of the service”.

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As it moves beyond the private beta phase, the Cabinet Office hopes that the platform will transform the way data is accessed across Whitehall – and, potentially, beyond.

“The Data Marketplace will be a new government service that provides a front door to discover, access and share government data in a legal, ethical and trusted way,” the contract said. “It will initially focus on sharing between public sector organisations, but there is also exploratory work underway to understand wider industry requirements for access to public sector data and the role that the Data Marketplace could play.”

It added: “The primary goal of the [platform] is to improve both the data acquirer’s and supplier’s productivity by removing or reducing as much as possible the current pain points. This includes the following business objectives: enable users to easily find data available elsewhere in government; allow data sharing to be set up more efficiently, effectively, transparently and in a trusted way.; support government organisations to create reusable data services that are interoperable with other government services; provide easy access to support, guidance, standards and documentation for data use and sharing; provide a holistic view of discovery and sharing of data facilitated by the DM with metrics on the gaps and barriers to data sharing to improve the government data ecosystem.”

Being able to share and access data from a single point will, ultimately, “make it easier for civil servants to find and access vital data they need for delivery and decision-making”, according to the digital and data roadmap.

News of the multimillion-pound investment in developing the Data Marketplace comes shortly after the publication of a report from the National Audit Office that found that, during the height of the pandemic, “officials told us that they struggled to access the data that they needed that existed elsewhere in government to support emergency responses”.

Sam Trendall

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