I’ve had a busy week of networking, with the Privacy Commissioner‘s Privacy Week overlapping Tech Week, and an interesting Government Information Group presentation from the Social Investment Unit as well.
There was a theme across all of the sessions that I attended that data integration between government agencies was both desirable and inevitable. SIU talked about their efforts to work together with other agencies, specifically their hopes to bring bottom up integration by creating a common toolset shared on github.
More surprisingly, Dame Diane Robertson, chair of the Data Futures Partnership, spoke at length about social license at the Privacy Commissioner’s Driving Trusted data Use session. While the emphasis in her talk was decidedly to respect every individuals’ right to privacy, she also made an off hand remark that government basically has social license to fully integrate its data. Specifically, she noted that most people believe that the government has already fully integrated the data about them across all of its agencies, and that when polled most people consent to that integration. So while government agencies need to act in compliance with the privacy act, they also need to be encouraged to share more between themselves to catch up with public perception. After all, the public has consented to something far greater than what is occurring. Dame Robertson was, of course, speaking only as a private citizen, but it is an interesting thought experiment.
From a lean or devops perspective, the fact that our government is split into departments who are legislatively focused on their local maxima is a clear opportunity for improvement. Those divisions are a source of friction in the smooth operation of society. Movement towards data integration across government is slow, but from my perspective it is already accelerating. Done properly it could be a boon to society. The responsibility to ensure that data integration is done properly is ours as data professionals.