A year of progress on the UK’s National Data Strategy

Guest post by Keren Pakes, General Manager, The Bright Initiative

Early this month I was very pleased to represent Bright Data at an event convened by Tech UK to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the UK Government’s National Data Strategy (NDS). Held as part of the Leeds Digital Festival, the event brought together a panel of data experts to reflect on the progress made so far in delivering the NDS and some of the challenges that lay ahead. The NDS is a hugely ambitious program to ensure that the UK develops as a global data pioneer over the coming years. As a company working at the heart of the global data industry, and with UK ownership, it’s been important to all of us at Bright Data to play a part in making the NDS a success. That’s why, working through The Bright Initiative, we’ve been supporting the UK Government as part of the NDS Forum and engaging with a wide range of partners to explore the potential of online data to have a positive social impact.

Chaired by Tech UK’s Sue Daley — co-chair of the NDS Forum itself — the event highlighted the huge progress that has already been made on the NDS. Phil Earl, Deputy Director for Data Strategy, Implementation and Evidence at DCMS gave a good summary of this while talking about the workplans that are now moving forward. Importantly, he highlighted the continuing need for delivery of the NDS being a collaborative effort — with government, public sector agencies, charities and businesses all having a role to play through the NDS Forum.

The range of people on the panel and the varied perspectives they offered were a good indication of this collaborative approach in action. Renate Samson, Principal Policy Adviser at Which, spoke about consumer trust in data. Renate presented some compelling evidence about the concerns the public has about the risks associated with the misuse of data, emphasizing the need to build trust through transparency and communications about responsible data use. Sally Mewies, Partner at Walker Morris LLP gave a technology lawyer’s perspective on how small businesses can best understand how to unlock the power of data and make the most of the new data regime that the UK Government is currently consulting on. The Royal Society’s Head of Policy, Dr. Natasha McCarthy, spoke about the role that data can play in tackling the global climate emergency by helping the UK reach its net zero target. Finally, Dr. David Leslie of the Alan Turing Institute offered thoughts on the incredible challenge of mapping and measuring the data landscape.

For my part, I drew on examples of the work that the Bright Initiative does with a wide range of partners to give examples of how to ‘unlock the power of data for everyone’ — one of the key NDS Forum workstreams. In particular, I presented some of the findings of our recent survey on how businesses are looking to ESG data to guide decisions — a powerful example of the varied ways in which data can have a commercial and social impact. With ethics being so important to Bright Data, I also joined other speakers in reiterating the need for all of us working in the data space to earn the public’s trust.

This event was a very useful chance to take stock of just how much has been achieved in the year since the NDS was published. It was also a reminder though of just how much still needs to be done. As the Bright Initiative continues to grow and develop we look forward to being a part of this journey, both through our work on the NDS Forum itself but also through our partnerships with organizations like Subak — who are doing such incredible things to use data for good.

There is a lot of hard work ahead but I am sure there will be even more to celebrate when we mark the next anniversary of the NDS!