The Electoral Commission has publicly advocated the importance of data sharing amongst government departments by calling on ministers to address the 9.4 million people losing their vote due to incorrect contact details.
People have a variety of touch points throughout their lives with government services; from applying for national insurance cards; to registering with their local council; to changing address with the DVLA. If these different services shared their data with one another, the latest updates to peoples’ information and contact preferences would be accessible to all. This would no doubt help to reach those voters who have slipped through the net due to undocumented changes in circumstances. But on a wider scale, it would also vastly improve the citizen experience of engaging with government services.
We’ve talked on many occasions about the benefits of sharing data for local government as well as how to overcome the typical barriers in the public sector that make data sharing difficult. In our increasingly digital world, sharing data will not only improve data accuracy, but will unlock a variety of practical benefits for both government and citizens; such as reducing fraud; improving tax collection; and identifying vulnerable citizens who may be at risk.
Sharing data underpins such a range of data driven initiatives for both central and local governments, it should already be considered standard practice. There are some councils leading the way in this regard. For instance, Brighton and Hove have created a citizen portal where people can log in to see joined-up information about their engagement with all local government services. However, this needs to be the rule as opposed to the exception. For this to happen there needs to be greater cooperation between departments and a focus on the outcomes that can be unlocked when government services share data and work together with the citizen at the heart of decision-making.