BLOG 6 - Data strategies or how countries navigate the data world

Published on: 09/07/2020
Last update: 24/08/2020

Everyone is, by now, familiar with the concept of digital strategy. The broader term might encompass different areas such as communication, data, privacy and transparency, digital skills. Particular developments are related to cyber security and to artificial intelligence strategies. Since 2010, digital strategies have become common occurrence for the Member States. The concern on communications’ security and privacy brought forward the cyber security strategies (the oldest one was set up in 2012). More recent developments in the technology field introduced the artificial intelligence strategies and data strategies. The later one is not commonly seen as stand-alone strategy. The data strategies are often embedded in broader ones such as digital strategies or artificial intelligence ones.

As data has become the new lifeblood of the economic development, the data-driven innovation is the next development stage. It helps develop new and more personalised products and services (e.g. personalised medicine, new mobility). It also improves the policy-making process and upgrades government services. But how will countries react to these new circumstances? The answers vary from updating previous strategies to developing new ones. In four cases, stand-alone data strategies were set up to better size this opportunity.

Ireland uses the data strategy to build a better ecosystem, with improved governance, management and re-use of public data in a secure, efficient and transparent way. In this way, the citizens, businesses and policy makers will benefit from efficient and effective public services, with the least burden possible when it comes to data collection. Moreover, the government will be able to better respond to citizens and business demands, be more transparent with personal data processing and with policy formulation and evaluation.

The Code for Digital Administration in Italy has introduced the National Digital Data Platform and the mandatory provisions for strategic datasets. The platform, data hub with open data as a service, offers the opportunity to connect via their web API to the public administrations. The adopted concept of Software as a Service (SaaS) simplifies the process the public administration needs to follow for the management and sharing of public data, making them better and more valuable.

Malta’s National Data Strategy targets the governance and management of all the data and records used to support the normal administrative functions of the Government. The “once only” principle reduce the administrative costs and burden and eliminate the efforts’ duplication. In this case, equitable, efficient, timely and effective products and services in the new norm. And, since the strategy alone might not be enough, data infrastructure development follows closely. A register of registries and a national data portal (one-stop shop for data discovery and consumption) are set up for both internal (data sharing service) and external (open data) use.

With the motto “Making data work for us”, the Netherland intends to fully take advantage of the enormous opportunities the data offers. The Dutch Data Agenda Government sets out how data can be used (even) better to improve policy-making and resolve social issues. Five main themes are the focus: problem-solving with a data-driven approach, legislation and public values, improve the quality of government data and use it more efficiently, collect and share knowledge about a data-driven approach, and invest in people, organisations and changes in culture. The focus is on how data is used within our society, addressing the proper and responsible use of data by the government. It also looks at the social opportunities and the public value, such as smart application of data and technology that can improve the quality of living. Moreover, an experiment conducted by the Education Executive Agency in Netherlands showed that chatbot can make services not only more efficient, but also more user friendly.

In Denmark, basic-data initiative is active since 2012. The initiative aims making better use of the data, especially the one collected and re-used by the public administration (the core information known as basic data). To modernise the public sector and improve performance by re-using high-quality data across the public authorities were part of the main goals. Another aspect, was to reduce burden on citizens and businesses, by simplifying and making public services more efficient. How they did it? They concentrated on five parallel processes: ensure the re-use of data and to prevent double registration and shadow registers by releasing the basic data to the public, enhance the quality of data by expanding and including other necessary data (phasing out redundant registries), standardised technological requirements to make linking data possible, putting in place a common infrastructure to improve the distribution (data distributor), and establishing a cross-institutional basic-data committee to ensure efficient, effective and coordinated development and use of basic data.

Each example shows how countries have found solutions to deal with the new challenge. And, while the purpose is similar, the way to do it considers both the strengths and the weaknesses of their systems to reach the best result. However, how flexible and adaptive are these developments, remain to be seen.