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August 21, 2014

How Gov plans to give civil servants better data skills

Open Data Institute could help train staff to handle data more responsibly.

By Joe Curtis

The Government hopes to train civil servants to handle data more securely with the help of the Open Data Institute.

The Cabinet Office is offering staff in local and central government vouchers to attend data courses at the Open Data Institute, founded by the creator of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The one- to three-day long courses will teach workers about how to get the most out of data as well as helping them to understand license and privacy issues better.

The Cabinet Office’s open data and transparency policy adviser, Suzanne Ter-Minassian, wrote in a blog post: "The scope of open data in the public sector is huge: it affects all sorts of specialisms, from communication to economics, from policy to accounting, ethics and project management.

"Pretty much anyone that has ever collected, interrogated or used any data, or anyone whose audience cares about data should understand open data and thus, attend this training."

The £250 vouchers would be offered to staff for free, and funded through a £1.5m Cabinet Office pot to support data-related projects.

The news follows shadow Labour minister Chi Onwurah’s criticism of public sector staff’s IT literacy.

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The shadow Cabinet Office minister told CBR: "There’s a general lack of digital literacy. If you haven’t got the people and you haven’t got the skills you’re heading towards failure."

The announcement also comes as the Government explores plans to share citizens’ personal details without their consent, covering data including financial history, education and property wealth.

The Government hopes that sharing such data, backed by new laws, would lead to benefits such as cutting fraud, monitoring economic growth and recording population shifts better, as well as identifying troubled families.

But ministers fear the project could fail if the proposals led to arguments with privacy campaigners.

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