On May 18th 2021, the UK Government published its response to the consultation on the National Data Strategy (NDS) and next steps for making the UK a world leading data economy. Outlined are five key priority ‘missions’ that underpin the delivery of the strategy, including a commitment to transforming government use of data, in order to improve public services.
The NDS makes recommendations for dealing with cultural challenges and technical barriers, often experienced by stakeholders when trying to achieve a standardised, consistent approach to data use. Within policing, issues around data availability and interoperability are not uncommon, as well as access to the right skills to respond to an increasing demand for transparency and accountability. The strategy proposes actions to improve data quality, availability and interoperability for those working in public sector.
The Office for National Statistics plays a key role here, acting as a leading delivery partner on a number of initiatives for the NDS. The DQ Hub, based at the ONS, provides ongoing support and training for stakeholders to ensure their data is fit for purpose, a key challenge identified by respondents to the NDS. Other policies mentioned include the Integrated Data Programme and Reference Data Management Framework, which allow for secure data sharing across government departments and public sector bodies to improve decision-making.
In line with these key policies, last month the ONS announced a new method for counting knife-enabled crimes in England and Wales. To improve data quality the Home Office, together with police forces, has developed the National Data Quality Improvement Service (NDQIS), a computer-assisted classification tool which reviews records involving a knife or sharp instrument.
NDQIS- a new methodology
NDQIS automates the process of classifying crimes through codifying human decision-making into rule sets based on Home Office classifications. As well as reducing their exposure to potentially distressing data, NDQIS offers data stewards quantifiable benefits in time saved reviewing crime records. Whilst human intervention is still required to review certain classifications, the automation means that detecting and fixing data quality checks is a much faster operation.
For respondents who called for more common data standards and governance performed via APIs, NDQIS offers a solution- greater standardisation allows for more consistent categorisation of crimes and improved comparability between forces. Over 90% of surveyed police forces expressed interest in further investment in cloud infrastructure and technology this year, indicating a need for flexible, secure data sharing. The enhanced infrastructure of NDQIS allows for secure cloud implementation for each force submitting data for regulatory reporting, whilst encrypting highly sensitive information from anyone not authorized to view the data.
Tech remedies for data stewards
The NDS comments that ‘data driven technologies are fundamental for improving public services’ and the NDQIS is just one example of how tools can help tackle the complex data challenges existing within public sector. Not only does it improve regulatory reporting, but good quality data also emboldens forces to make informed policy decisions on their deployment of resources; accurate data helps public services reach the communities most in need.
NDQIS is a key enabler for improving data quality related to knife crime, but with ever growing demands on our public services, the opportunities to embrace data-driven technologies are greater than ever.
The following blogs in this series will be looking at some of the typical data issues experienced by those working in the public sector. As an experienced data scientist will spend 80% of their time doing data preparation (cleaning, de-duplicating and matching), future blogs will look at efficient ways to ease the burden of data preparation, from data metrics and self-service data improvement, to data matching and migration. Read more about this in our Policing Data Quality E-Book here.
Roisin researches and writes on data management for Datactics, specialising in Govtech and Fintech. Holding a Master’s from Newcastle in Communication & Media, Roisin also covers PR for the company, and has a passion for the impact of music and arts on society.