ONS makes ‘milestone’ move to boost trust in government data

Statistics body floats quality framework to help departments improve their data use
ONS Data Science Campus

By Jim Dunton

07 Dec 2020

The Office for National Statistics has published new guidelines designed to help departments ensure decisions are made using the best possible data – and improve trust in the way government works.

Developed by the ONS’s Government Data Quality Hub and the Government Digital Service, the Government Data Quality Framework provides five “key principles” for data quality management in the public sector.

They are: committing to data quality; knowing users and their needs; assessing quality throughout the data lifecycle; communicating data quality clearly and effectively; and anticipating changes that affect data quality.

The ONS said the framework would help departments effectively assess, use and communicate data quality. It is one of the actions set out in the National Data Strategy to tackle barriers to good quality data.

James Tucker, who is head of the Government Data Quality Hub, said the public sector needed to make sure it kept pace with the data revolution that is currently transforming “almost every aspect” of people’s lives.

“Data held by the public sector is one of the UK's most valuable assets, and it’s vital that it is fit for purpose,” he said.

“This framework sets out the principles and practices to enable government to understand, communicate and improve quality, so that we can all have the utmost confidence in our data.”

Julia Lopez, who is parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, said the framework represented a “milestone” for data quality in government and was a step towards building a “true data quality culture” in the civil service.

“We hope to see more decisions being made on the basis of data that is complete, consistent, reliable and accurate,” she said.

Lopez’s Cabinet Office remit includes supporting secretary of state Michael Gove and minister of state Lord Theodore Agnew to deliver cross-government efficiency and public sector transformation.

The new Government Data Quality Framework sets out the five principles in detail, providing explanations of key terms and case studies relevant to each category. It also explains the strategic context of the principles and how they can be applied by civil servants.

The framework can be read here.

Read the most recent articles written by Jim Dunton - MHCLG ‘underestimated rough-sleeper numbers sevenfold’

Share this page
Read next
Partner content