A report calling for government to adopt federated data-driven approaches has laid out recommendations to improve the acquisition, retention and retrieval of data and information. It calls for government look to the Open Data Institute (ODI) and the Ministry of Justice for inspiration. The ODI and MoJ have both adopted policies such as the mandatory use of document sharing, and the creation of a board that nurtures a culture of positivity towards openness and transparency.
The report, published by innovation foundation Nesta, began by posing the theory that a permanent Civil Service that organises its memory well would function better than one that doesn’t. When recurring policy tasks come up or a natural or built environment disasters occur, comprehensive bodies of knowledge could be tapped into in order to guide decision-makers who are then not forced to reinvent the wheel, nor repeat the mistakes of their predecessors
A federated, data-driven approach improves performance and provides greater power to leaders.
This is the concept of organisational memory also known as corporate or institutional memory. It relates to the acquisition, retention and retrieval of data, information and knowledge of a particular organisation. The report states that a federated, data-driven approach is one that improves performance through better use of and structured access to data, as well as one that provides greater power to its leaders, and benefits its participants and users.
The Ministry of Justice was upheld as an example of an organisation that has adopted this approach. In 2016, it announced the creation of the Data, Evidence and Science Board to improve policy-making across the department, which has five areas of exploration. These include using data and evidence to drive reforms, removing data blockages in the justice system, making research, population and performance data more readily available to practitioners and decision-makers, and defining an ethical framework (as the application of analysis will often be based on highly-sensitive data).
The Open Data Institute was also put forward as a model organisation for implementing a data-driven approach to its corporate memory. One action was to mandate the use of shared Google documents and ban the use of attachments internally. This policy applied to all operational documents, research proposals, HR, budget, financial reporting, sales planning and reports, project plans, performance metrics, board reports, compliance reporting, legal and accounting documents Staff were given guidance on the naming conventions.
According to the report, reasons for poor corporate memory include high staff turnover, rigid departmental silos, lack of rudimentary knowledge of management systems, the technical design of those systems, and the use of contractors. Government websites used to carry extensive previous analyses and policies, but now they are hidden or lost, it stated.
Build reciprocity into data supply chains and develop data ethics standards.
Two of the report’s five recommendations that relate to data are; build reciprocity into data supply chains, and develop data ethics standards that can be evolved at pace.
There are also five specific recommendations relating to data. These are:
The implementation of these recommendations is intended to support the discovery and use of relevant knowledge, thus eradicating inefficiencies that can cost billions of pounds. The author argued that while we are on the verge of a data revolution, we are also at a point where the deluge of data is creating the potential for an "information collapse" in complex administrations.