As rapid digital transformation changes all aspects of daily life, citizens expect their governments to provide better services and policies that deliver on the promises of the digital age. Advances in technology and data-driven approaches can radically change the way governments and citizens interact. Through a strategic use of data, governments can create conditions for improving the quality of public services, increasing the effectiveness of public spending and safeguarding ethical and privacy considerations. A data-driven public sector requires governance mechanisms that favour efficient data handling but also preserve public trust when using data to deliver outcomes.

The OECD is a long-standing advocate of a data-driven approach; the 2014 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies recognises the central importance of data in the shift to digital government. This report describes trends, opportunities and challenges for policy makers in the use of data as a strategic asset. It highlights country practices and provides guidance on applying data to improve the quality of public services and citizen well-being.

This report addresses three areas of discussion: the importance of data governance as the foundation of a data-driven public sector, the use of data to increase public value, and the role of data in building public trust.

Data governance underpins the readiness of the public sector to adopt data-driven approaches. Governments can then use data not only to anticipate the public’s needs, but also to deliver better services, improve policy implementation and evaluate their own performance. Nevertheless, the increasing use of sensitive or personal data raises new challenges for governments. This report explores ongoing efforts to ensure ethical, transparent and secure ways of managing and handling data to support public trust.

The report is the culmination of OECD work on digital government and open government data, which seeks to support governments in using data to transform the public sector and address issues of public governance. This work is grounded in the 2014 OECD Recommendation and carried out under the auspices of the OECD Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials. The report builds on the work of the Working Party’s Thematic Group on the Data-Driven Public Sector, the OECD Working Paper A data-driven public sector, and the analysis from OECD Digital Government Reviews. Finally, it reflects the specific experiences of Denmark, Ireland, Korea, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

This report, as document GOV/PGC(2019)50, was approved by the Public Governance Committee at its 60th session on 15 November 2019, and was prepared for publication by the OECD Secretariat.

The data-driven public sector framework presented in this report can be used by countries or organisations to assess the different elements required for using data to make better-informed decisions across the public sector. It is not intended as a one-size-fits-all prescriptive model, but is offered as a tool to support the development of additional case studies to foster data-driven approaches in different policy areas.

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