Data for a Fairer Society: Co-Ordinating a Community and Social Sector Response to the UK National Data Strategy

Rachel Coldicutt
The Startup
Published in
4 min readOct 2, 2020

Data policy has important social implications and should not only be determined by technologists

A screengrab from the National Data Strategy web page

Why is this important?

The National Data Strategy might sound like a very technical thing; in reality it is a document that sets out a vision for how information might flow through the UK economy, government and our public services. That information will be used to drive decisions that are made about people and things, and inform the design of products and services. So although this might be traditionally regarded as a piece of digital policy, it will also have implications for economic and social policy. It will influence government investment decisions, how information is shared between public and private sector organisations, and it may have a bearing on areas including the delivery of education, justice, healthcare, access to jobs, housing, economic opportunity, and the social safety net.

The National Data Strategy in brief

The data strategy sets out a vision in which data flows freely through the economy, government and the public sector, and across borders. As well as seeking to boost productivity and improve scientific research, the strategy aims to drive better delivery of policy and public services and create a fairer society for all.

Why is that relevant to the social sector?

  1. Missing, incomplete and historically biased data sets lead to discriminatory decisions
  2. Data-driven decisions can be opaque and lack accountability
  3. The UK does not have established or effective methods for governing emerging and data-driven technologies

In a culture where what is counted counts, the data that a nation uses and collects should represent its population equally. To quote a recent report by the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in British Columbia:

By making systemic inequalities in our society visible, data can lead to positive change. The same data, used or collected poorly, can reinforce stigmatization of communities, leading to individual and…

Rachel Coldicutt
The Startup

Exploring careful innovation, community tech and networked care. Day job: @carefultrouble .