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‘Data: a new direction’ – the UK government’s new data protection regime

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On 9 September 2021, the UK government published ‘Data: a new direction’, its wide-ranging proposals for reforming the UK’s data protection regime. The ambition of the proposed reforms is to secure the UK’s international position as a science superpower and data hub, to build on the unprecedented and life-saving use of data to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, and to overhaul the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the data responsibilities of businesses and other organisations. The proposals were out for consultation until Friday 19 November 2021, and organisations and individuals across the UK could respond with their evidence or perspectives to help shape how the proposed reforms are developed and implemented.

How we’ve engaged

Our values are fearless, expert and enabling and we’ve used these to guide our engagement. We’ve worked in the open to share our thinking as it developed; we convened high-level expert discussion meetings to explore key points of the consultation; and we created resources to help others prepare their own consultation responses.

In September we published this Twitter thread to outline the main chapters of the consultation. We also revisited this autumn 2020 essay by Jeni Tennison, ODI Vice President and Chief Strategy Adviser, on the future of data protection in the UK.

In October, we published a consultation mapper and explainer to help others engage with the consultation and plan their response. It includes a plain-language summary and outline of each of the consultation chapters, accompanied by relevant ODI resources and government documents; and a spreadsheet that maps the consultation proposals and questions, to make it easier to select which ones to focus on.

In November we published summaries from three expert roundtable discussions to explore specific aspects of the proposals in more detail. We worked in partnership with Wellcome to convene a roundtable discussion on the research impact of the proposed reforms; and we worked in partnership with the Institute for Government to convene a roundtable discussion on using data to enable better public services. We also convened a cross-sector roundtable discussion for senior executives. Chaired by our co-founder, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, and highlighted the outcomes of all three roundtables at the National Data Strategy Forum.

Our response

We published an outline of our draft response for public review and feedback, and to share our ideas and evidence for wider discussion, before finalising our consultation response.

The Open Data Institute’s (ODI’s) thinking is guided by our theory of change for how those who steward data, and those who create information from this data, can support decisions and actions that lead to the best economic and social outcomes for everyone. Our high-level position is informed by our manifesto, which outlines the elements of open and trustworthy data ecosystems: infrastructure, capability, innovation, equity, ethics and engagement. And we have drawn on areas where we have relevant evidence and distinctive expertise, such as in data assurance, data institutions, and data literacy.

We submitted a formal response to the consultation on 19 November.

Next steps

The consultation closed on Friday 19 November 2021, and the government is expected to publish its response in Spring 2022. If you’d like to get in touch about this project, you can reach the team on policy@theodi.org or @ODIHQ