Department for Work and Pensions aims to make it easier to reuse data across its services

The launch of a chief data office will help manage the various independent systems used to collect data

A brainstorming session at the DWP's new Chief Data Office

The digital arm of the Department for Work and Pensions, DWP Digital, has launched a new Chief Data Office (CDO) in an effort to improve the services it offers to the public.

Led by its chief data officer, Paul Lodge, the focus of the CDO will be "small" for the first year, with the main aim to drive up quality, compliance, and consistency in data sharing.

Other data management policies will follow on from there, the DWP has confirmed.

The data available to DWP Digital comes in an "increasingly complex" variety of formats, it said, so the first order of business will be to ensure the "consistent" use of data in a secure, legal, and ethical way.

A challenge it will immediately face will be to manage the various independent systems used to collect data, which have created inconsistencies in the past and has made it difficult to reuse data across multiple systems.

To support the CDO's ambitions, a data strategy for the department has been developed by its head of data strategy and enablement, Katharine Purser. This will set out the principles DWP Digital will use to manage data more efficiently.

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"DWP is custodian of more than 200TB of data," Purser said. "That's the equivalent of approximately 67 billion single-spaced A4 pages of text, and this is growing in both volume and diversity at a rate of about 10% a year - including new data types such as voice and video.

"We know that one of the best things we can do to accelerate our efforts in the area is to improve our ability to re-use data. Good data can help us understand the environment we operate in and the way we operate within it, the needs of the citizens who come to us, and the impact our services have."

Purser will also be discussing the challenges around establishing the CDO in a digital leaders webinar on 18 October.

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