Unlocking the Value of Public Sector Data for Public Benefit
Guest blog by Angela Daly, Professor of Law and Technology at the University of Dundee, and Chair of the Independent Expert Group for Unlocking the Value of Scotland’s Public Sector Personal Data.
The new Independent Expert Group (IEG) met at the end of March 2022, the first of our series of monthly meetings. For each of these meetings, we aim to write a blog to accompany the minutes, as a more accessible way to get a sense of what we discussed at the meeting, as well as some other initiatives which are influencing our thinking.
The IEG is a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder group with members from different parts of Scotland and beyond. Our aim is to advise the Scottish Government about how those who hold datasets in the public sector in Scotland can make decisions about how this data is used with and by the private sector. Where this is done, it has to be in a way which benefits the people of Scotland and gains their trust.
At the first IEG meeting, we introduced ourselves and spoke about the aims, objectives and processes for the IEG’s and Scottish Government’s work over the coming months. We also discussed some other relevant initiatives to inform our work. In this context I introduced three recent reports, not commissioned or connected to the Scottish Government, which I thought would set the scene for the group’s activities over the coming months. They are:
- the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) report on key findings from the Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission, Coming Out of Covid-19: Reimagining Scotland (October 2021);
- the Understanding Scotland Technology survey (January 2022); and
- the Ada Lovelace Institute (ALI) Participatory Data Stewardship report (September 2021).
The RSE and Understanding Scotland reports relate specifically to Scotland, whereas the ALI report is broader in geographical scope. The reports all share common themes of public participation and increasing public trust being key to ensuring public acceptance of new technologies and data uses. The use of personal data and data sharing is identified as a priority for the Scottish Government, but the public have concerns about privacy and technology misuse.
In my view, these concerns need to be addressed in the context of data gathering and sharing in Scotland. The Participatory Data Stewardship approach identified by ALI, which involves people in the ‘design, development and deployment of data governance frameworks’ may be a mechanism for helping to ensure public benefit is realised while preserving public trust in the use of our data, by involving the public in decision-making about data.
Governments around the world are grappling with these questions and issues. We hope that this programme of work in Scotland will be world-leading and we are listening to and actively seeking out interesting and good examples of public participation, benefit and trust from different locations to inform our thinking and outputs during 2022. I am personally very open to hearing from anyone with relevant information, views and evidence for the IEG at any point during the IEG’s lifetime. I can be contacted at my university email address.
N.B – This blog post represents the personal views and opinions of Angela Daly and does not necessarily represent the views of the rest of the IEG, nor the Scottish Government.