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What’s happening with data

It’s time to update you on what’s been happening on our work with data. It’s one of our three interconnected strategic areas of focus: digital, technology and data. They’re so closely intertwined that we can’t work on just one or two of them. It’s all three, or nothing.

Mike Bracken was appointed Chief Data Officer back in March but of course, relinquished that role when he left government. So here’s what we’re doing next.

New beginnings

First, let me introduce Paul Maltby. Paul’s been working as Director of Open Data and Government Innovation in the Cabinet Office since 2013, and is now leading the data workstream at GDS. His name will ring bells with anyone who’s worked in the data sector - he’s known as a vocal advocate of open data and a prolific Tweeter.

Paul Maltby GDS

Paul and his small team are busy planning the next steps. Getting data right is a fundamental part of the next phase of digital reform, and a vital building block for government as a platform. But the potential of data goes even further.

Collaboration, not empires

The team’s near-term priorities are to:

  • communicate the mission - we haven’t communicated enough about the work or our plans for the future, so that’s going to change
  • focus on execution and get stuff done; teams from GDS and the Government Innovation Group will work on three different strands of work, which Paul will explain in detail in a future post
  • move faster, which means making sure communication between various governance groups and stakeholders is better
  • continue to work with departments; we want to work more collaboratively with our colleagues around government

On that last point, let me be very clear: we’re not trying to build a data empire at GDS. There’s good work being done across government, and we want to support and encourage it. Even as policy, governance and controls remain at the centre, it’s important that the management of data should remain with departments (as demonstrated recently by Companies House). Our aim is to help ensure government data is good data, and is put to good use.

We’ve published many blog posts about our preparatory work for government as a platform, including discovery projects and ideas for registers. That work was all useful, but it’s just the smallest of beginnings. Our aim, and Paul’s job, is to help departments move onwards from there. It’s a far bigger, bolder and more ambitious plan.

We should value data as part of our national infrastructure, and there’s still a need for central coordination of the data agenda. Keep an eye open for posts from Paul and his colleagues, as they spell out their plans in more detail.

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  1. Comment by Gaynor Williams posted on

    Information is good, have used transactional services BUT I do have a recent concern. I have used Universal Jobmatch since redundancy 2011, (whilst also considering options of early retirement, pension/to continue work). My concern has been mainly with UJ. I applied for a part time job recently, and have previously, thinking UJ to be a safe site. When making online application there are specific requirements to be met by each different employer or agency. I have provided my NI number as required to make application, received email confirmation of the recent application with a password to 'my account' but no link was included. Potential employers are asking for this information but I now see from the UJ site (small print 'standards' bottom screen) that NI number should not be given to prevent fraud! Also the 'safe' jobs' link appear to not be safe nor further links. Am I totally naive / stupid and should I have known that Government linked sites are not safe?

    • Replies to Gaynor Williams>

      Comment by Ben Johns posted on

      Dear Gaynor,

      I am sorry for the problems you have had with the Universal Jobmatch service.

      When signing up to Universal Jobmatch, jobseekers are required to confirm that they have read the Universal Jobmatch Jobseeker Standards of Behaviour. One of the sections states:

      7.2 You should not be asked to reveal personal details such as bank account details, National Insurance number, date of birth, driving licence or utility bill information as these items are not relevant to an application process.

      It is for an employer to choose both the method of application and the level of detail to be displayed when advertising a job on Universal Jobmatch. However, the service relies on employers to adhere to specific Terms and Conditions which they must subscribe to before they access Universal Jobmatch. One of the sections states:

      2.9.1 You agree to: only collect personal information from jobseekers where there is a legitimate reason to do so. The following information must not be requested until a formal job offer has been made and accepted a) National Insurance Number; (b) Passport details; (c) Bank Account details; (d) evidence showing entitlement to work in the UK. Further guidance on the documents that can be requested to show an entitlement to work in the UK can be found on the UK Border Agency Site.

      This means that you should not have been asked to provide the personal information you referred to. Therefore the Department for Work & Pensions would be grateful if you could pass on the details of the employer for them to be investigate and take the appropriate action. You can pass on the details via the Contact Us facility within the Universal Jobmatch service by clicking on the ‘Have a question?’ tab at the bottom of the page. Please also feel free to report any other concerns you have.

      SAFERjobs (Safe Advice for Employment and Recruitment) ( is a non-profit, joint industry and law enforcement organisation created in 2010 to raise awareness and combat criminal activities that may be attempted on those seeking a job, or through the services provided by the recruitment industry. It also provides a means for jobseekers to report any concerns regarding employers who are advertising online, or actual fraud.

      SAFERjobs provides free advice to jobseekers where information is reported to them and do not share that information with anyone except The Metropolitan Police and the government department in the interest of investigating the issue. Where people choose to 'report' and share their concerns with SAFERjobs, that information is circulated to 3 members of the committee who will respond with advice. Please be assured that any information provided is treated in line with the Data Protection Act.

  2. Comment by Dave posted on

    Could you provide me with a GDS clear definition of a "transactional service".

    • Replies to Dave>

      Comment by Bessie Campbell posted on

      Transactional services include pretty much every interaction you might have with the government, from booking driving tests and filing tax returns to setting up a company and applying for a fishing rod licence: everything which involves sharing information, requesting services, buying goods, asking for permission, or paying money.