How to embrace data today, to be ready for tomorrow

The ability to capture, store and manipulate data at scale is one of the central benefits of digital technology. For the wider public sector, exploiting data offers incredible potential to inform policymaking, co-ordinate public services and deliver a more personalised citizen experience. It has become clear that government should continue to ensure public confidence by explaining how and why it uses public data. We asked 1071 citizens who shared their views on data.

We found that;

  1. 56% told us that they trusted government organisations with their data compared to 31% trust in private companies.
  2. Younger people, higher earners and professionals in the ABC1 grades all tend to be more trusting of both government and the private sector with their data.
  3. The top three drivers for trusting government with personal data are a belief that:
    1. Strict rules and regulations apply about their use of data
    2. Public bodies would not use data for marketing purposes
    3. Public bodies do not sell or share data without citizen’s knowledge.
  4. 22% believe that government bodies use data for the good of society compared with 7% believing the same of companies.
  5. The top three drivers for mistrusting the government with personal data were when people felt that:
    1. they do not have control over their data
    2. their data isn’t kept securely
    3. an organisation doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
  6. 54% were comfortable sharing data on a government website compared with 20% on sharing data on social media, and 43% on online shopping sites.
  7. 77% of people would support the use of their data by the NHS to improve services and treatments, compared to 56% supporting the use of data to inform funding decisions or matters of national security.

Overall, our survey shows an encouraging public perception of data use in the public sector. People are relatively trusting of government with their data, tend to believe that it will use their data for the good of society and do not think their information will be used for marketing. They are also supportive of the public sector using their data for a host of reasons, and especially the NHS. These findings also suggest that if government wants to boost public trust in its use of data, it needs to engage people in why it uses data, give confidence that personal information will not be breached in a cyber-attack, and assure the public that data is managed under strict regulations.

So what should we do?

As public bodies seek to make fuller use of the data they hold, our research suggests that government could boost public trust further by:

  1. Explaining how data is used and the benefits that can bring.
  2. Provide assurance that data is managed under strict regulations and is stored safely.

This is an extract from The State of the State report.

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