Plans to train up 500 analysts in data science across the public sector have been unveiled by the UK Government.

A new Chief Data Officer is also to be appointed as part of a ‘whole-government’ to transforming government’s use of data in order to drive efficiency and improve public services.

The plans were revealed in a new National Data Strategy, which is designed to ‘boost the use of data to drive growth, innovation, create new jobs and improve public services’.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden, speaking ahead of the London Tech Week’s Global Leaders Innovation Summit, said: “Our response to coronavirus has shown just how much we can achieve when we can share high-quality data quickly, efficiently and ethically. I don’t intend to let that lesson go to waste.

“Our new National Data Strategy will maintain the high watermark of data use set during the pandemic – freeing up businesses, government and organisations to innovate, experiment and drive a new era of growth.

“I am absolutely clear that data and data use are opportunities to be embraced, rather than a threat to be guarded against. It aims to make sure British businesses are in a position to make the most of the digital revolution over the years and decades to come, help us use data to improve people’s lives, and position the UK as a global champion of data use.”

The strategy, which lays out five priority ‘missions’ the government must take to capitalise on the opportunities data offers, is a central part of the government’s wider ambition for a thriving, fast-growing digital sector in the UK.

It includes:

  • Plans for 500 analysts to be trained up in data and data science across the public sector by 2021.
  • Plans for a new Government Chief Data Officer to lead a whole-government approach to transforming government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services.
  • Plans to introduce primary legislation to boost participation in Smart Data initiatives, which can give people the power to use their own data to find better tariffs in areas such as telecoms, energy and pensions.
  • A new £2.6m project to address current barriers to data sharing and support innovation to detect online harms.

Up to ten new Innovation Fellowships – inspired by the US Presidential Innovation Fellowships – were also announced to support the digital transformation across government. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to work closely with the No. 10 Data Science team, Government Digital Service networks and a peer-group of exceptional talent.

Those fellows will sit within No 10, the Government Digital Service and a number of departments, and use their skills to contribute to the kind of fulfilling challenging projects that only the public sector can offer – ones that have a huge impact on society as a whole.

The strategy commits the government to develop a clear policy framework to determine what interventions are needed to unlock the value of data across the economy and help propel the UK forward in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

It proposes an overhaul in the use of data across the public sector and the government will launch a programme of work to transform the way data is managed, used and shared internally and with wider public sectors organisations, to create an ethical, joined up and interoperable data infrastructure.

The analysts will be trained up in data and data science across the public sector by 2021 through the Data Science Campus at the ONS, the Government Analysis Function, and the Government Digital Service to meet the evolving needs of government.

A new Government Chief Data Officer will oversee the Government Digital Service and lead the Digital, Data and Technology function. They will be responsible for shaping and delivering the government’s innovation and transformation strategies to improve capability and ensure the government can better leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services that enhance our reputation as the world’s most digitally-advanced government.