Government IT suppliers should face interoperability duty, says think tank

Out-Law News | 20 Aug 2018 | 4:33 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government should require prospective IT suppliers to ensure their systems are interoperable, according to a new report by the think tank Reform.

The move would help support improved the sharing of personal data within the UK public sector and in turn help improve the way those organisations deliver services, it said.

In its report, Reform said (50-page / 1.04MB PDF) that the UK's public sector "has not lived up to its ambition of creating joined-up public services underpinned by an effective system for sharing data across multiple organisations".

It identified "pockets of best practice", but said there is a lack of data infrastructure that would enable easy and secure access to data across the sector.

It highlighted issues with the quality of data collected by public sector bodies and the lack of standard formats in use, and further said that there are problems with linking together different pieces of data on citizens to help build up a full picture of an individuals' identity. This "lack of unified identity management can act as a barrier to the effective sharing of personal data", it said.

To help address the issue, Reform made a series of recommendations, including two aimed at ensuring data can be shared more easily across different systems in use in the public sector.

"Technology vendors selling to public-sector bodies should ensure that their products are compatible with relevant Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), allowing this technology to overcome interoperability issues and government to change providers with ease," Reform said.

"Moving forward, it should be mandatory for any system procured within the public sector to adopt open standards, encouraging competition and improving interoperability by avoiding vendor lock-in situations," it said.

The report also called on the government to do more to improve the public's trust in data sharing, and recommended that data sharing within the public sector is subject to an audit trail.

"All government departments should prepare to develop audit trails which track how data is used to ensure every interaction with personal data is auditable, transparent and secure," it said.