Response to spending review: Government should strengthen UK data infrastructure

ODI Technical Director Jeni Tennison welcomes investments in digital innovation, and calls on government to not lose sight of the need for a strong data infrastructure

We learnt to maintain our roads for the good of everyone. We need to do the same for data infrastructure. CC BY 2.0, uploaded by [N i c o l a ]([email protected]/6023029145/in/photolist-abeAJ6-5YqdiZ-6vmnuU-2fGMy-6vmmVh-bKGMt8-6x6C7M-6xaLCh-dEmFMe-pKMo9a-2SrDse-4ath7Z-gmz647-nCN9xH-qPtVuv-bjg148-jnus8m-qA8cXn-8Hq6bn-9tbMC6-bjfZMV-djCqm-5rshyn-8HFhF-8GVooH-bXJmvm-8ywDiE-pmNVmc-hMQZfa-o1Z42L-8XLKZG-nR8Qxu-t7Fwom-aLAZWV-8DbBhM-5HzbDL-juGPFL-bVZGSY-6UyqF-p9ZMBW-9xFsu4-qMYjh1-ff4sks-e6EKzr-8tRgpy-7oj55g-6oDRAr-v8Tjfj-mjg9Nr-6rch3G “user").

It is encouraging to see the UK Government recognise the significant role that both digital innovation and infrastructure has to play in this Parliament.

Investing in the long-term infrastructure of our country is a stated goal of the spending review. We now urge government to consider data as infrastructure that is fundamental for delivering digital transformation, growing the economy and realising cost reductions.

The government’s spending review includes a commitment to improve digital innovation in the public sector, but as many sectors and countries have seen, the potential benefits go far beyond public sector efficiencies.

Data is infrastructure

Data is infrastructure, and is vital for the operation of modern society. It underpins transparency, accountability, public services, business innovation and civil society. Data such as statistics, maps and real-time sensor readings help us to make decisions, build services and gain insight. The data that government publishes could be used across all of society as open data – by companies, charities and citizens – to build better services, gain new insights and generate economic growth.

For example, the UK Government committed to giving every individual and small business a digital tax account by 2020. Together with the work being developed by the Open Banking Working Group, this will enable people and businesses to access their bank transactions, switch accounts and pay their tax from within a banking app. These initiatives will help lay the data infrastructure foundations for the digital economy in the financial sector.

The case for openness

The economic case for open data is strong and will only get stronger as more companies and sectors go open. The cities, countries and even continents that build the most robust and open data infrastructure will have an enormous advantage in the 21st century economy. The UK has been a world leader in the digital economy, we now need to accelerate to continue that leadership.

Bringing benefits to everyone

When our roads, railway and energy networks were being built we learnt how to maintain them for the good of everyone. We need to do the same for data infrastructure. It is vital for the operation of our society and economy.

We look forward to the government’s Digital Transformation plan that will be published in early 2016 and hope that it seizes this opportunity to strengthen the UK’s data infrastructure.

Jeni Tennison is Technical Director & Deputy CEO at the ODI. Follow @JeniT on Twitter.

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