Proud of OECD Working Paper ‘A data-driven public sector’

DDPS Working Paper OECDIt’s out! Almost three years after having started the analytical work on a data-driven public sector at the #OECD, I’m proud to present the OECD Working Paper on the strategic use of data in the public sector.

It has been my pleasure drafting this paper, which has been finalised by my former colleagues in the OECD digital government unit.


This working paper considers the power of data to transform our governments, including its use as a strategic asset to increase societal well-being and its potential democratising effect on public discourse. However, it is important to identify how governments can move on from pockets of good practice to whole-of-government approaches that are well supported internally and which also find favour with the public. 

The paper discusses the opportunities created by a DDPS in three important areas. First, the ability of governments to use data to be better prepared for the future. This explores how data can be used to predict trends and patterns in order to mitigate emerging risks and respond to developing crises. The second area of opportunity is around the design and delivery of policy and services. Data provide important ways of understanding problems, engage the public and provide access to insights for  improving public services that meet user needs, while creating the conditions for robust, evidence-based policy making. The third area of opportunity that the paper explores is performance management in terms of greater public sector productivity and better evaluation of policies and impact. 

The paper subsequently identifies challenges governments may face in establishing a DDPS. The first of these concerns the availability, quality and relevance of data. The second is sharing data internally, which involves tackling organisational resistance, finding ways to communicate what is available internally and solving barriers to interoperability. The third set of challenges concerns the skills and capabilities that governments need to make the most of data. Finally, the critical question of legitimacy and public trust is considered, with a focus on ethical use of data by public sector organisations, privacy, transparency and the risks that governments and citizens need to be aware of when implementing a data-driven public sector.
The paper concludes with the discussion of the need for coherent strategic approaches that reflect the role of data across the entire public sector, not only from a policy point of view but from an operational and practical perspective.

I would like to thank Benjamin Welby for his excellent additions bringing the paper to the finish line and Barbara Ubaldi for the strategic orientation and final revisions.