Executive Summary

The rise of data and digital technologies are rapidly transforming economies and societies, with enormous implications for governments’ daily operations. Twenty-first century governments must keep pace with the growing expectations of their citizens, manage increasing pressure on their budgets and react to new policy challenges. Any failure to adapt to this new and changing environment could expose them to damaging risks and a consequent diminishing of public trust.

Data has the potential for playing a positive role in society. But, despite some advances, turning the promise of data into tangible, measurable and consistent outcomes remains largely elusive. In the public sector, the role of data in the ongoing digital transformation has come up against legacy technologies, skills shortfalls and legal obstacles. Some countries have made significant progress in strengthening the capacity to use data strategically to improve policy making, service delivery or performance management. Individual organisations have also produced impressive results. Nevertheless, the use of data is not yet viewed -- or resourced – as a fundamental means of creating public value

Building on previous OECD work about the role of data in society and the economy, this report proposes a model for understanding the ‘data driven public sector’ (DDPS) that will maximise the opportunities provided by twenty-first century data. It proposes that a truly data-driven public sector:

  • recognises data as a key strategic asset with its value defined and its impact measured

  • reflects active efforts to remove barriers to managing, sharing and re-using data

  • applies data to transform the design, delivery and monitoring of public policies and services

  • values efforts to publish data openly as much as the use of data between, and within, public sector organisations.

This report underlines the importance of adopting a whole-of-government approach to developing a coherent and comprehensive model of data governance that helps governments deliver better services while being efficient, transparent and trustworthy in their use of data. It does this by presenting three areas for discussion.

First, countries need to develop a comprehensive model for data governance. The report proposes a definition of data governance, establishes the purpose of data governance and describes the development of a common framework for establishing such governance. The report argues that countries need to develop a cross-government, coherent approach to data governance that underpins a truly data-driven public sector and reflects the critical elements for achieving system-wide benefits in government. The components of this framework are:

  • Securing the leadership and vision to ensure strategic direction and purpose for the data-driven conversation throughout the public sector

  • Encouraging the coherent implementation of this data-driven public sector framework across government as a whole and within individual organisations

  • Putting in place, or revisiting, rules, laws, guidelines and standards associated with data

  • Ensuring the existence of a data architecture that reflects standards, interoperability and semantics throughout the generation, collection, storage and processing of data

  • Developing the necessary data infrastructure to support the publication, sharing and re-use of data.

Second, countries can apply data to generate public value through three types of activity:

  • Anticipation and planning: using data in the design of policies, planning of interventions, anticipation of possible change and the forecasting of needs

  • Delivery: using data to inform and improve policy implementation, the responsiveness of governments and the activity of providing public services

  • Evaluation and monitoring: the use of data in measuring impact, auditing decisions and monitoring performance

The third area is the role of data in trust. Public trust in government is a critical factor in citizen well-being but is far easier to lose than to build. The way in which governments handle citizen data can be particularly damaging. The report challenges governments to:

  • adopt an ethical approach to guide decision making and inform behaviour

  • protect privacy, promote transparency and design user experiences that help citizens understand and grant or revoke consent for their data to be used

  • approach the security of government services and data in ways that mitigate risks without blocking the transformation of the public sector

Using the DDPS framework developed by this analysis, three case studies are presented. They demonstrate that a DDPS approach is applicable to local and institutional levels Just as well as to the centre of government. These case studies consider the DDPS experience in the areas of public sector integrity, public employment and management, and budgeting and public expenditures. Countries and organisations can use the framework of this report to assess their own readiness for being a data-driven public sector.

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