Unlocking the Value of Public Sector Data for Public Benefit: Blog #4
Guest blog by Ruchir Shah, Open Government and Civil Society Activist, and member of the Independent Expert Group (IEG) for Unlocking the Value of Public Data.
Centrality of engagement: attendee reflections from UVOD’s August meeting
The IEG met for the fifth time at the end of August, and the focus was on engagement. By this we meant engaging, not just with experts on data, industry representatives and policy makers, but also with the wider community and public. Consequently, engagement experts Democratic Society have been appointed by the Scottish Government to support the group with this important facet of our work.
Our starting point has been a reflection on a set of principles to guide the unlocking of public sector personal data when used with or by the private sector for public good. This was initially drafted by the chair following discussion with group, and subsequently refined with more input from the group. The principles are not a fait accompli, as we felt it is in the spirit of open government to share our ‘workings’ publicly at this stage, so all concerned can see and challenge the direction our work is going in. We planned for our the first test of this, a stakeholder event, with data specialists and some business representatives in September.
We reminded ourselves that the remit of the group given by Government is to look at private sector use of public sector personal data. Nevertheless, we have recognised the challenge in this, as the boundaries of ‘private sector’ here are blurred, and the effective and ethical use of data by third sector, academia, public sector and others are just as important to the public.
The meeting was collegiate with lots of reflection and challenge. This is an important agenda, and because of its importance, not in spite of it, it is absolutely right that we are taking an open government approach to sharing what we do publicly. To that end, we also heard in the meeting from the Scottish Government’s Head of Open Government, on what such as approach would look like, and how the IEG’s work could be an exemplar in the open government space.
Our next steps will now involve developing the group’s communication and engagement priorities, including a series of participation and feedback workshops with the support of Democratic Society. We will use this to further build on the principles and formulate an initial public policy statement. In turn this will provide us with a clear framework for the group’s recommendations to ministers.