ADR UK-sponsored event explores how to ‘get things done’ with data in government

Categories: ADR UK Strategic Hub

7 February 2020

Data Bites is a series of events exploring the ways in which government can make better use of data. Each speaker is given eight minutes to talk, followed by another eight minutes to answer questions from the audience. Scroll down for a video recording of the event for those who missed it.

Event attendees had the exclusive opportunity to hear from and engage with leading government and public sector data experts including: 

  • Marcus Bell, Director of the Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit 

  • Stan Gilmour, Head of Public Protection for Thames Valley Police 

  • Anna Powell-Smith, Founder of Missing Numbers 

  • Dr Stephen Lorimer, Head of Public Sector Data at the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport 

Marcus Bell kicked off the event, diving into the value of a ‘data first’ approach in tackling inequalities. He showcased the main output of the race disparity audit, the ethnicity facts and figures website, which illustrates differences in treatment and outcomes, such as in education and stop and search rates. In response to audience questions, he stressed that standardisation of the way data is recorded by different bodies is essential to useful data linking. 

Gilmour was next on the bill, demonstrating how administrative data has the potential to assist in early intervention with troubled families and individuals. He emphasised the good quality of current police data, and highlighted that health organisations are also keen to share data to aid a public health approach to crime prevention. However, use of this data is currently restricted to research and Gilmour acknowledged that important ethical issues would need to be worked through if it were to be used for more operational purposes. 

Anna Powell-Smith followed, reminding the audience that despite the useful and varied applications of government data, its potential could be much greater. She demonstrated this by highlighting data the government doesn’t currently collect, including examples as diverse as data on land ownership, the value and extent of unpaid care, and job centre complaints. She suggested that we need to start focusing as much on producing relevant data as we do on producing accurate data, and that a public conversation is needed to inform which statistics are ‘relevant’ and ‘important’. 

Dr Stephen Lorimer closed the event by reiterating the importance of improving the use of data across government, and by outlining the challenges, notably problems with data quality and standards, and poor understanding within some parts of government of the legal gateway provided by the 2017 Digital Economy Act. He outlined steps the government is considering to overcome these obstacles, including the potential for mandated data standardisation. 

Dr Emma Gordon, Director of ADR UK, said: “We were thrilled to sponsor the latest instalment of the excellent Data Bites series. Safely and ethically sourcing and curating public sector administrative data is only one part of the equation for data-driven change; understanding its role within government, and how to maximise its potential in evaluating and shaping policy and practice, is another. It was a privilege to hear these first-hand insights from experts on the use of government data about the good work that is already being done to shape the future and improve people’s lives, and heartening to experience their enthusiasm for tackling the challenges to achieving even greater positive impact.” 

Here is a live recording of the event for those who missed it, schedule of speakers as follows:

  • Introduction by Gavin Freeguard (00:00:00-08:26)
  • Marcus Ball (00:08:26-27:21)
  • Stan Gilmour (00:27:21-44:40)
  • Anna Powell-Smith (00:44:40-01:02:08)
  • Dr Stephen Lorimer (01:02:08:01:21:41)

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