Achieving Optimal Data Handling In The UK Public Sector

    By Kam Bhatoa, Head of Government, BJSS

    Kam Bhatoa

    This article originally appeared on Think Digital Partners. 

    Data sharing stands as a cornerstone for efficient governance and the seamless operation of public services. It serves as the bedrock for strategic decision-making, policy formulation, and the effective delivery of services to citizens. Nonetheless, the sharing of data among public sector entities has historically grappled with a myriad of hurdles. These include financial constraints, concerns over security breaches, and the intricate web of data handling policy and GDPR protection regulations. Admittedly, these regulations are necessary for safeguarding sensitive information, preserving individual privacy, and ensuring responsible data management. Yet, these challenges have inadvertently given rise to a fragmented IT infrastructure in the public sector. 

    The current public sector challenge

    Fragmentation of data causes data silos, wherein an organisation maintains separate databases or systems that operate in isolation from one another. These data silos usher in a slew of challenges: 

    • Efficiency hurdles: Data silos obstruct efficiency by hindering collaboration, decision-making, and innovation. Decision-making processes are often compromised due to the time it takes to access and integrate data from various silos. Innovation may also suffer as employees struggle to gather comprehensive insights or leverage the full potential of the available data across the organisation. 
    • Cybersecurity risks: Data silos often result from legacy systems that have not been upgraded to keep pace with current technological advancements. These legacy systems may lack modern security features and updates, making them vulnerable to cyber threats. As technology evolves, so does the complexity of cyber-attacks. Data stored in siloed, older systems may not have the robust security measures needed to protect against sophisticated cyber-attacks, putting the organisation at a higher risk of data breaches, unauthorised access, or data leaks. 
    • Increased operational costs: Managing and maintaining multiple data silos requires additional resources and infrastructure. Each silo requires its own set of resources, infrastructure, and dedicated personnel for management, maintenance, and support. This duplication of effort and resources leads to increased operational costs, including expenses related to data storage, maintenance and management. 

    Solutions - Overcoming data silos

    To surmount these challenges, public sector entities must embrace an operational approach that includes: 

    • Clear policies and governance: The establishment of unambiguous policies, procedures, and governance frameworks, striking a harmonious balance between the imperative to share data and adherence to compliance and regulatory stipulations. 
    • Technological solutions: Leveraging technology solutions such as data automation and secure data-sharing platforms. 

    The Benefits to Public Welfare 

    Data automation, for example, empowers organisations to analyse vast amounts of data, leading to more astute decision-making. For instance, an AI tool developed by researchers at University College London predicts the hospitalisation needs of patients arriving at emergency departments, thus enhancing resource management. Another example is the integration of health and social care data to elevate the quality of support provided to citizens by coordinating services from nurses and social workers. 

    The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in the UK oversees driver and vehicle safety and compliance. DVSA collaborated with BJSS to modernise their heavy vehicle testing operations, moving from outdated legacy systems to a user-centric digital platform known as the Commercial Vehicle Service (CVS). The project employed Microsoft Dynamics technology and AWS apps, streamlining processes, and enhancing customer experience. The new system allows customers to manage their testing processes, check account balances, and make online payments in real time. This transformation led to improved data accuracy, quicker test result availability, and efficient DVSA operations, contributing to the agency’s modernisation goals. 

    Unleashing the potential of data

    Data silos pose an obstacle to efficiency in the public sector. However, dismantling these silos through clear policies, technological innovations, and ethical initiatives not only ensures compliance with regulations but also unleashes the potential for more informed decision-making and superior services for citizens. 

    The time is now to prioritise data sharing within the public sector. To find out about how we can help, you can learn more about BJSS’ Public Sector offering here.