ONS mulls commercial data partnership to expand 3rd party sources
Prior information notice looks to expand data and information that can be collected from third parties as the body looks to reform the scope of the UK Census
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published a prior information notice to potentially establish a commercial data partnership to obtain more relevant and timely sources of third party information.
The new project will look at expanding partnerships with commercial data providers to supply more timely information about the UK economy and general population statistics to government organisations.
A spokesperson for the organisation said that any potential partnership resulting from the engagement would not be focused on the ONS providing commercial services, but look instead to expand data sources used to inform public and private sector organisations.
Ahead of the next UK census scheduled to be conducted in 2021`, ONS has already begun planning out what sort of IT and data systems will be needed to store and bring together information in a service anticipated to be “predominantly online”.
As part of these ongoing reforms, the body has said it is looking via the prior information notice at how a new commercial partnership may allow it to more regularly update data traditionally provided by the Census. This will include experimental work, for example in areas like the use of ‘web scraping’.
“This is part of an already announced focus to look whether we can get [this Census data] from other areas,” said the spokesperson.
It is understood that the notice is intended to try and engage industry in conversations about collecting data on certain Census criteria more regularly than is currently allowed by conducting a national survey every ten years.
The Digital Economy Bill that is currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny is also expected to set out criteria for accessing and protecting a wider amount of data that can be used by ONS to deliver information to government departments.
Among the information to be sought via potential commercial partnerships will be economic factors looking at GDP, payments and trade balance, as well as labour market and household information. Additional details are also being considered to provide the public and probate sector with figures on population and wellbeing issues.
The commercial project is also expected to consider a research-led data source that will support its new Data Science Campus initiative to be based in Newport.
Set up to act as a hub for the whole of government to gain practical advantage from the wider investment in data science research and help cement the UK’s reputation as an international leader in data science, it is understood the campus could also create potential commercial opportunities.