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September 9, 2020

Sweeping Government Data Audit will Touch Every Corner of Public Realm

Potential partners have two days to get expressions of interest in...

By claudia glover

A public information notice published by the Crown Commercial Service reveals plans for an unprecedented audit and digitisation of public datasets, across “all UK public sector bodies” — spanning scanning, storing, and shredding.

This appears to include a major drive to digitalise medical data — applicants will need to prove that they can securely and compliantly handle the “storage, retrieval and transportation of patient records”, the September 8 notice suggests.

The government data audit plans come as ministers published a sweeping new National Data Strategy, which pledges a radical new approach to public data — including the creation of an “Integrated Data Platform for government”.

What’s Getting Digitalised? Everything… 

Under a £120 million contract, spread across five lots over four years, the government plans to contract a partner to handle “records information management, digital solutions and associated services” for a host of public sector organisations.

The project will include the digitalisation of datasets and government documents, and will be “utilised by” health, police, fire and rescue, education (including schools, colleges and other educational establishments), charities and third sector and Devolved Administrations, as well as central and local government. 

Expressions of interest need to be by Friday this week (September 11), giving potential applicants less than 72 hours to write in since the notice was published on the European tenders portal. The Cabinet Office says it will publish a contract notice October 12.

See also: “Pro-Tech”, “Pro-Growth” National Data Strategy Finally Lands: What You Need to Know

The CCS is undertaking this project with the help of  public sector procurement agency the YPO; the five lots can be combined or awarded singularly, the notice shows. 

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They are as follows:

  1. Records information management services
  2. Digital workflow and cloud hosting solutions
  3. Preparation of patient records (physical and/or digital) service
  4. Specialist records management services
  5. Combined records information management, digital workflow and cloud hosting solutions and additional services.

Amongst other priorities, the National Data Strategy outlines the need for sensitive data to be protected from risk by cyber crime or fraud, saying “We will shape a more secure technology environment, and improve cyber risk management in the economy to make the UK resilient to cyber threats. The increasingly international nature of data collection, storage and transfer can present data security risks… We will determine whether current arrangements for managing data security risks are sufficient to protect the UK from threats that counter our missions for data to be a force for good”.

The government, meanwhile, says it will train 500 analysts data science across the public sector by 2021 through the Data Science Campus at the ONS, the Government Analysis Function, and the Government Digital Service, saying better use of data will boost productivity and trade; support new businesses and jobs; and help increase the speed, efficiency and scope of scientific research.

Earlier criticism from the Public Accounts Committee noted that “neither Cabinet Office nor DCMS has a government-wide list of the IT systems that government will need to upgrade or replace if it wishes to make real advances in how it uses data” and added that “data has not been treated as a valuable asset [in government], so it has become normal to ‘work around’ poor-quality, disorganised data.”

Oral evidence to the committee in September 2019 suggested that large, unstructured public datasets were being held in the cloud, in US regions.

See also: PAC Blasts Shambolic Approach to Gov’t Data


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