One of the key governance themes addressed in the study ‘Data Analytics for Member States and Citizens is about the axis centralisation-decentralisation. Which functions to become a data-driven administration are organised in a centralised way, which ones are decentralised and how can coordination be shaped?
A joint data agenda in a decentralised public sector
Such questions play a big role in the Netherlands, where traditionally a great part of the public sector is organised in a decentralised way, with a lot of discretionary freedom to local government bodies.
While the case study ‘NL Digitaal: Data Agenda Government’ shows that a highly decentralised public sector does pose challenges for the design and implementation of a whole-of-government data agenda, it also demonstrates that it is possible and has advantages to create a shared vision and agree upon concrete actions to support all public stakeholders involved.
A key governance action taken right at the start of the Data Agenda Government in spring 2019 was the inauguration of the Data-Driven Approach Learning and Expertise Centre (Leer- en Expertisepunt Datagedreven werken - LED).
The LED, commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior, is tasked with connecting (government) organisations and promoting a data-driven approach in government. It plays a facilitating role in interconnecting data communities of open data specialists, privacy officers, information security officers, archivists, big data specialists, etc. For example, based on a question from a municipality, the LED organised a knowledge exchange among municipalities on the use of data for early signalling of people running into debt and poverty related problems. It also organises meetings on specific pressing themes, such as the role of the chief data officer.
The crucial function of the LED for the implementation of the Data Agenda Government is acknowledged through its explicit mention in the agenda itself and the assignment of a solid multi-annual budget.
By providing support to the community of organisations involved in the joint data agenda, the involvement of local governments exceeds the level of demanding for updates on the implementation of the agenda. The LED’s role is about leveraging the country’s data champions and offering concrete help and encouragement.
Since the introduction of the Dutch Data Agenda Government, knowledge exchange has been taken to a higher level. More and more government organisations know that they can take their questions on starting a data-driven policy project to the LED and have consequently been brought in touch with each other in case of similar experiences and challenges. Knowledge communities have been created, for instance between a number of municipalities using data to tackle the social challenge of poverty and debts.
LED-ing beyond the Netherlands?
Do you have an organisation like the LED in your country or do you have other ways to facilitate knowledge exchange for a data-driven public sector?
And what about EU institutions? Could they benefit from having a dedicated expertise centre on data?
Please share your thoughts as a comment below this post. If you want to know more about the context in which the LED has come to be, you can consult the complete case study ‘NL Digitaal: Data Agenda Government’.