The Foreign Office has created the government’s first open register to provide a single database on every country in the world to be used across the public sector.
At the Government Digital Service (GDS) Sprint 15 event, Alison Daniels, digital transformation leader at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, announced the Country Register, a database that replaces similar and duplicate datasets across the government.
“This is now the canonical list, the one list you can come to and know it is produced by a trusted source and know it is the latest, up-to-date list,” she explained.
The Country Register is just the first of many open registers that will be created across government by the appropriate department, which will then be responsible for ensuring the data is kept updated and accessible to the rest of Whitehall, UK citizens and beyond.
The goal of having these open registers is to cut down on the replication of datasets, often riddled with inaccuracies from manual data entry or simply out of date, across the public sector.
This will not only ensure GDS is driving more open and digitalised data in the public sector, but will help reduce the cost of having siloed, monolithic departmental databases.
Going big on open data
Paul Maltby, director of data at GDS, said the plan is to make data a keystone in the public sector, aiding Whitehall decision-making and giving citizens more access to the information the government holds about them.
“Data is going to transform the relationship between the citizen and the state and it is for us to recognise that and harness it,” he said.
“If we are going to improve the quality and accessibility of data, both for those users outside but also inside [the public sector], then we have got to get serious about how we use data inside government and inside public services.”
Maltby said that the DVLA is already doing this by enabling drivers to access information relating to their licences online.
But he said GDS wants to expand upon this with a goal to help departments deliver data-as-a-service through canonical registers, built upon GDS’s software platform for registers.
“Across departments we need to do the handwork to make data simple; it means separating out the data layer from our applications, whether they’re digital services or indeed layers on which we do analysis,” he added.
While GDS will help facilitate this process and create the platforms and tools so that departments can set up their own open registers, it is also effectively placing the onus of delivering 'consumable' databases on individual departments.
This could be a double-edged sword as some departments may be more enthusiastic about taking on that responsibility than others.
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