Mark SayManaging EditorWednesday 25 October 2017

GDS official calls for feedback on registers

Public sector officials urged to provide input into development of canonical lists as part of building data infrastructure

The lead for the development of registers in government has called for more public sector officials to get involved in building the lists.

Ellie CravenEllie Craven, product lead for data infrastructure in the Government Digital Service (GDS), said it is open to feedback on the registers under development and ideas for new ones.

The programme to develop registers – the canonical lists that act as a definitive source for naming specific types of entities – has been underway for nearly two years as part of the creation of a UK national data infrastructure.

There are now 14 live on the relevant section of GOV.UK – including lists of government organisations, local authorities, prisons and countries – with another 45 under development.

Speaking at UKAuthority’s Data4Good conference yesterday, Craven said GDS makes the registers available for feedback before they go into use and is eager for public servants to respond.

Useful or not useful

“Tell us if it’s useful to you,” she said. “Tell us if it’s not useful to you. Tell us if we’re missing something that’s a complete clanger. Tell us if you think we should prioritise something on the list.

“The hardest part of our work is often finding that one person in government uniquely placed to know about the subject of a register, then convincing them to own it. If you think you own a list that could be a register, let me know. If you think you own some of the register, let me know.”

She emphasised that the registers are created for re-use, available as open APIs and interoperable with other government systems.

Craven said that providing a canonical list such as a register provides a reassurance to the rest of government that they can trust the source, and gives the users of the data, whether they are within or outside of government, a consistent and accurate view.

“The potential of this is so huge it frightens me a little,” she said. “If every part of government used the same data infrastructure, data would stop being a source of friction in interactions between citizens and government, or even between different parts of government.

“Instead, data would become the enabler, a thing that all departments and citizens could rely on to be consistent.”