Citizen engagement

I’d hate to fall out with William Heath but one of his latest posts about the private sector holding citizen data I found challenging from my situation as an experienced IT worker, government employee and representative on various local government IT bodies, plus a long association with the voluntary sector.

One of the conundrums of government is that is delivers a lot of different services, some of them of critical importance to the well-being of many people. The data it holds is frequently necessary for that service delivery. Every time there is an issue where one arm of government, perhaps the police, is not privy to something held by social services, there is uproar about the lack of data sharing. Every time someone, usually in central government and frequently detached from the person-in-the-street, loses some data there is also uproar.

William’s solution appears to be to give citizens control  of that data. Can anyone in their right mind see a child abuser or someone with mental health issues maintaining their data correctly? I’m not saying the state is any better at holding the data than the private sector, but they do not have the same interests. The private sector has to make a profit. How will it do this but by charging potential users of the data for access to it?

With the approaching G-Cloud and Public Sector Network there is a big debate about who holds what data where. The ‘blue light’ services are emphatic about the need to have data at their finger-tips, they also know from many recent cases that this has to be shared relatively easily and quickly with others, as does child protection data, mental health records and much other data from other sources.

If the concensus answer is not to share data then don’t come out with screams of outrage when children die from neglect, abuse or attack. This is an extreme example of data sharing, but there are a lot more less critcal ones where data sharing is beneficial to the data subject.

Let’s try and view this in the round, rather than constructing some sort of shoddy data edifice that will crumble at the first push!


One Response to Citizen engagement

  1. William says:

    No-one is saying crooks should edit their criminal records.

    Some data organisations create about me is “their” data (eg NI number). Some data about me is created when the organisation and I intersect (transactional data). But some is in my head. No-one knows better than me my real motivations, beliefs, preferences, future plans.

    It’s insane data logistics to have dozens of organisations pretending to keep up to date versions of basic data about me, and to ask me to complete their forms dozens of times, when I could hold an accurate and verifiable record, and share it as easily as checking my own tick box. (I could also stop sharing it just as easily if I wanted to break off an elective relationship with an organisation on whatever grounds).

    If you want an edifice metaphor I’d say the “relationship” in CRM (or Transformational Government for that matter) is like a one-ended bridge – the pont d’Avignon, if you want. To have any utility we need to build the other end – th eindividual’s end. This means a personal data store, third-party authentication/verification and selective disclosure.

    Then data can flow in a structured way from the organisation to the individual, and vice versa. This is permissioned data sharing, conformant to Cameron’s laws and respectful of the insights of eg DTI Trustguide.

    Many private sector organisations see this opportunity and are keen to hold and “own” the personal data. Our work at Mydex is towards a social enterprise that provides the platform that makes it possible for individuals to control and manage the data, and for third-party organisations to provide services to the individual based on permissioned flows of data while ownership and control of the data rests with the individual.

    You’re entirely right to disagree with what *you thought* I was suggesting. And there will be a great deal to think through critically when the potential of user-driven and user-controlled data in public services is set out more clearly. Most of the big questions lie ahead. But I think the proposition of buyer-centric commerce or user-driven services is deeper, more carefully thought out and more valuable than your post here suggests.

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