Responsibility for government data use returns to GDS
Group of policymakers to move from DCMS to form basis of new team
Responsibility for guiding the government’s use of data is to return to the Government Digital Service, more than two years after it was transferred to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
It is understood that a new team – the foundation of which will be five policymakers being transferred from DCMS – is being established in GDS to oversee government data work.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson told PublicTechnology that the move “will allow the government to make the best use of data to deliver the best possible services for the people of the UK”.
“It will enable gross-government work to be carried out, ensuring data is managed ethically while providing clear accountability through one central government department,” they added.
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DCMS remains in charge of data policy as it pertains to the economy and society at large. The department is understood to also retain responsibility for delivering the UK’s first National Data Strategy – which, after more than two years for work to date, is due to publish by the end of 2020.
“We remain committed to delivering an ambitious, pro-growth National Data Strategy later this year,” the department said.
DCMS has held responsibility for setting the strategy for government data policy, governance, ethics and sharing since April 2018, when these functions were moved over from GDS. About 15 policy specialists were moved between the two organisations as part of the shift.
At the time, many onlookers saw the move as a significant blow – at least symbolically – to GDS’s ability to drive change from the centre of government. The decision even led some to speculate as to whether the digital agency would remain part of the Cabinet Office, or if it might be reunited with the data function in DCMS.
This chatter was dampened by then Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden, who told PublicTechnology in May 2018: “In terms of the core function of GDS – which is the delivery of government digital services... that clearly remains within the Cabinet Office – and will continue to do so.”
He also described the move of government data policy from GDS to DCMS – which had taken place only a month previously – as a “sensible decision… [that had] been long under discussion”.
The decision to return the function to the Cabinet Office was announced this week in a written statement to parliament from prime minister Boris Johnson.
“This change will help ensure that government data is used most effectively to drive policymaking and service delivery,” he said. “The change is effective immediately.”
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