A new approach to data

In the Government’s recent Integrated Review, the value of data as a strategic asset and the challenges of the digital age featured repeatedly. At a cross-departmental level, a new approach to data was set out in December last year in the National Data Strategy, emphasising the need to ensure data is fit for purpose, appropriately accessible, and utilised in a safe and trusted way. More recently, the Ministry of Defence released its Digital Strategy for Defence, which set out how it will deliver a secure, singular, modern Digital Backbone. Now, the Home Office has released its Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Strategy 2024, which sets out how it too will utilise its technology and data estate to best effect.

Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) in the Home Office

This strategy comes fairly early in the life of DDaT, which was only set up within the Home Office in 2016. However, the breadth of activity that DDaT has already been involved in, from the digital delivery of the EU Settlement Scheme to the rollout of Digital Services at the Border, demonstrates how important this function is to delivering the Home Office’s mission across all areas, from borders to counter-terrorism to policing.

The vision at its heart is clear, which is to set out how Home Office DDaT will develop better digital products, platforms and services, and transform how they manage data, over the next three years. To achieve this, it sets out six principles for change:

  1. Converge technologies where possible
  2. Create shared technology products
  3. Be product-centric over programme-centric
  4. Become data-driven to improve decisions
  5. Deliver effectively at scale
  6. Embrace innovation

Key commitments

In setting out how each of these principles will be delivered in practise, the strategy outlines a number of important commitments for DDaT in the next three years.

Firstly, it commits to the development of an authoritative register of all the technologies and products across the Home Office in order to avoid potential duplication and foster convergences.

Secondly, the department will encourage the reuse of technologies and the use of open source, open standards and cloud technologies in order to rationalise their technology estate.

Thirdly, it commits the department to a move away from focusing on outputs towards outcomes, ensuring that needs are defined not in terms of technology but instead in terms of the intended goal. As part of this, DDaT’s development and technology operations staff will adopt a ‘devops’ (combining software development and IT operations) approach towards products.

Finally, it confirms that the Home Office will move from a centralised storage approach to a federated architecture model. In keeping with the National Data Strategy, this should help the departmental to make better use of its data sources.

Partnering with industry

There is a welcome recognition that DDaT should look to the marketplace for new technologies and the strategy recognises the need to learn from industry about best practise and technology development. A new Chief Technology Office Innovation Team will help to provide advice on emerging technologies and a new central Innovation Pipeline is already helping to develop new ideas.

ADS believes the UK’s security and resilience sector is uniquely placed to respond to and exploit rapidly evolving technological change. Over the next three years industry will therefore be keen to work closely with the Home Office to deliver their ambition to become a newly product-centric and data-driven organisation in this digital age.