Big Data in government conference brochure

February 2017

In February 2017, Reform held a conference on ‘Big Data in government: challenges and opportunities’. John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service and Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, gave the keynote speech. The event explored themes including the issue of Big Data and the issue of public trust and attitudes; Big Data in healthcare and Big Data in criminal justice.

Download the full conference brochure here.

This conference brochure contains articles covering themes from across the conference from leading figures in public services including:

  • John Manzoni, Chief Executive, UK Civil Service and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office
  • Hetan Shah, Executive Director, The Royal Statistical Society
  • Dr Mark Thompson, Group Strategy Director, Methods Group and Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
  • Pete Cummings, Director, Partners and Government, EMEA, Adobe
  • Daniel Ray, Data Science Director, NHS Digital
  • Dr Nasrin Hafezparast, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Outcomes Based Healthcare
  • Jeremy Atkins, Big Data Consulting Sales Manager, EMEA, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • James Slessor, Managing Director, Global Public Safety, Accenture


Reform comment

In the latest edition of Civil Service Quarterly, John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service, said Government needed to change if it is to unleash the potential of the “massive amounts of data” it holds. This was previously argued by the Science and Technology Committee who described the use of Big Data in government as having “huge unrealised potential”.

There is a consensus that Big Data and analytics have the power to transform the way in which government designs and delivers public services. As highlighted by the Royal Statistical Society, it can change the type of evidence available for policymakers and allow for better evidence-based decision-making. Big Data analytics can help deliver better services for citizens and realise savings.

Despite this potential, its expansion faces several challenges. Sciencewise has found that public perception and understanding of the use of personal data by private companies and government is limited. There are legitimate ethical concerns surrounding privacy, consent, transparency and ownership of information, but research has shown that most of the reticence surrounding data collection and sharing originates from a lack of understanding of how it is being used. Government needs to address this data trust issue – and articulate the benefits – if it is to unleash the full potential of Big Data. This will be the subject of the first panel.

The second panel will focus on the challenges and opportunities offered by the application of Big Data analytics in healthcare. It is the area of public services which has seen the greatest expansion and application of analytics, with initiatives such as such as the 100,000 Genomes Project, the largest national sequencing project of its kind. This type of project will allow for better diagnosing, treatment and prevention, thus improving people’s wellbeing.

The third panel will explore how Big Data and analytics have been applied in criminal justice. The benefits of using Big Data for fraud detection are well established. Kent Police has been a pioneer with the use of Predpol software for predictive policing. However, crime prevention and predictive policing are still relatively nascent fields. The panel will identify the barriers and opportunities lying ahead for Big Data analytics in criminal justice.

Reform is thrilled to welcome expert speakers and attendees to this conference. Big Data and analytics have the power to transform the way public services are designed, commissioned and delivered, making them more efficient through reducing costs but most importantly though the delivery of improved outcomes for citizens. To achieve this potential, the Government must adapt. Reform will continue to be a strong advocate for the application of new analytical tools to promote evidence-based policy that delivers more efficient and improved public services.

Eleonora Harwich, Researcher, Reform