Policy briefing note for the UK National Data Strategy

A non-technical guide to the likely social impact of the National Data Strategy

A picture that says “policy briefing note: understanding the social impact of the national data strategy”
A picture that says “policy briefing note: understanding the social impact of the national data strategy”

Anyone who knows me will know that I hate to write a long document — but, unfortunately, I had no choice. My policy briefing note on the National Data Strategy rather stretches the credibility of the word “note” (it is just under 6,000 words long), but there was a lot to say.

Read the briefing note >

Read the summary slide deck>

The briefing note attempts to explain the importance of the National Data Strategy for non-technical audiences, and summarises some of the social impacts. The main purpose is to assist with answers to Q3 of the consultation:

“Please provide any comments about the potential impact the proposals outlined in this consultation may have on individuals with a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.”

(In UK law, protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.)

My short answer to Q3 is that the National Data Strategy risks centralising power and entrenching many structural biases. Explaining why took a lot of words, but I have tried to make them easy to read. In short, this is not simply a technical document — the Strategy is about power and decision making, and its recommendations will have broad economic and social implications.

The policy note ends with four draft policy recommendations:

  1. Appoint specialist Data Commissioners to champion minoritised communities
  2. Adopt a clear, public framework for government data
  3. Prioritise maintenance and repair alongside innovation
  4. Recognise Data Ethics in the Government Digital Design and Technology Profession Capability Framework

If you would like to develop these recommendations further, contribute to or co-sign a co-ordinated consultation response, please email hello@careful.industries by 15 November 2020. Otherwise, please feel free to use this note as an input in your own response, and do pass it on to anyone you know whose work champions the rights of marginalised communities.

The document is a Google Doc, which you can export to PDF if you’d rather read it that way. Or you can download it and get citation details from Zenodo.

Read the briefing note >

Note: This reading of the strategy does not cover privacy, security, data standards, data adequacy, data institutions or make any economic projections. I assume other submissions will address these areas.

Written by

Feminist. Responsible technologist. Reading and writing on equality, automation and climate crisis. On sabbatical-ish. Formerly @doteveryone .

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