Working together: Developing the Integrated Data Service (IDS)

Natasha Bance

This blog is part of our ‘Working Together’ series for Analysis in Government (AiG) Month 2022. Throughout the month we will be sharing blogs from colleagues across government to highlight the power of working together.

The theme for this year’s Analysis in Government month is ‘Working Together’. I am sure we can all agree this is something we constantly strive to be better at across government, but is often easier said than done!

Part of working effectively together is about mindset and culture. We need to be open and collaborative to make sure joint projects can progress. But we must also have the tools, technology and structures in place to enable us to work together effectively and efficiently. This is particularly important for members of the Analysis Function.

It is that exact challenge that we hope the Integrated Data Service (IDS) will help with.

The aim of the IDS

Our vision for the IDS is to transform the way we work with data. We want to use the power of data to enable government reform based on improved policy decisions. Under comprehensive security and ethical protocols and through a Trusted Research Environment, the IDS will enable analysts to access and analyse multiple linked data. This will allow the dissemination of a range of data that provides wider and more useful insights than ever before.

This is an approach the ONS has been concentrating on for a long time. Some of our readers will already be familiar with the Secure Research Service. The IDS will add to the success of this service by using cloud technology to reduce the time and effort needed to share data between government departments. That will mean that analysts can integrate and link data more easily for broader analysis. It will also mean that analysts can use the data to make their analysis more comprehensive and effective.

The power of linking data

Very recently, the Covid-19 pandemic showed us the significant benefits of linking data from multiple sources. Analysts linked vaccination data with wider geographic and socioeconomic metrics to identify specific parts of society where vaccination rates were lower than others. This insight led to targeted public health interventions to improve vaccination rates where this was needed most.

It is this sort of effect that linking data can have. The IDS will further improve the ways we can link data with ease. There are already new projects within the IDS. These projects include:

  • looking at local wage growth – in partnership with the Treasury
  • the energy efficiency of housing – in partnership with the Valuation Office Agency
  • how to monitor community concerns from across the country – in partnership with Industrial Strategy

These projects provide examples of the wider issues where the service can improve how data is shared across government. This will lead to better policy and public services.

Working together to create the IDS

The IDS is still in beta stage of development. We are continuing to build the platform for the wider analysis community.

During 2022, you will see more researchers access the IDS and more projects commissioned through the platform. And your participation is crucial. Though the creation of the IDS is led by ONS, it is a cross-government platform.  It needs the support of you and your organisations for it to be a success. This could be through sharing datasets, commissioning projects, or integrating the IDS into wider policy formation. To link back to the theme of Analysis in Government month, it is only by working together that we will make this service work and deliver for the public good.

If you would like to learn more about the IDS, you can contact us at IDS.Comms@ons.gov.uk.

Dominic Hale
Natasha Bance
Dominic Hale is the Head of Strategy for the Integrated Data Programme at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).