Unlocking the Value of Public Data – Third meeting of the Independent Expert Group
Guest blog by Annie Sorbie, Lecturer in Law (Medical Law and Ethics), University of Edinburgh, and Member of the Independent Expert Group for Unlocking the Value of Public Data.
The Independent Expert Group met in May for the third of our series of monthly meetings. Our task is to advise the Scottish Government on how those who hold personal datasets in the public sector in Scotland can make decisions about how this personal data is used with and by the private sector. Where this is done, it has to be in a way which is trustworthy and benefits the people of Scotland.
This work is really beginning to gather momentum, as we focus on our plans for the rest of the year, and what is achievable within that timescale. For example, one of the outputs that we are aiming to produce are some interim principles for unlocking the value of public data. This approach has been successfully used in other areas of policy, such as recent work around responsible investment in natural capital.
Our discussions have briefly touched on what these principles may contain, but our main focus so far has been on starting to think about how these will be co-produced with stakeholders. These include publics, and third sector and civil society organisations, as well as practitioners across sectors who hold and/or seek access to data in the public interest. What is clear is that meaningful, two-way engagement requires careful planning and adequate resourcing, and that there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach. Instead we have been considering an iterative and hybrid approach where there are different ways and spaces for people to engage and input to this work as it develops throughout the Independent Expert Group’s lifetime. This is of utmost importance in circumstances where there are many potential benefits of responsible data sharing, but it is also clear that public’s have concerns about privacy and technology misuse, as explored in a recent blog by our Chair: Unlocking the Value of Public Sector Data for Public Benefit.
Indeed, as the Independent Expert Group’s work progresses, it is also important that we keep a close eye on the ever changing social, political and legal backdrop against which this is being conducted. This includes matters that impact on all of our lives, such as the cost of living crisis, as well as the announcement in the Queen’s Speech of a Data Reform Bill, which it is proposed will overhaul the UK’s data protection regime. This outward-looking approach is also reflected in our desire to engage with examples of good practice in data use and sharing from within and beyond Scotland. For example, at the forthcoming ‘Data for Policy’ international conference a special track has been convened to invite submissions from practitioners and academics on a wide range of topics in relation to the use of public sector personal data with or by the private sector, including on how public benefit is understood in this context. In addition, and on an ongoing basis, we are very open to hearing from anyone with relevant information, views and evidence on this topic.
N.B. This blog post represents the personal views and opinions of Annie Sorbie, and does not necessarily represent the views of the rest of the IEG, nor the Scottish Government.