How can the UK public sector use data to improve resilience in 2023?

The current state of play

Listening to a recent webinar hosted by Siobhan Benita from the Global Government Forum, I was taken by the word of the year; ‘permacrisis’. The meaning; an extended period of instability and insecurity. If we are to believe the speakers on the webinar, there is little sign that things will settle down quickly, if at all, during 2023.

Inflation and slow growth, the cost-of-living crisis, the imperative to tackle climate change and never-ending drive to improve public services – all of this combined means that the year ahead can see quite daunting for the public sector.

Furthermore, the Institute for Government (IfG) Whitehall Monitor 2023 event - which focused very much on the role of Civil Servants and the impact of the turbulence of last year - highlighted that 66 Cabinet ministerial appointments were made last year, versus a norm of circa 20 per annum. This staff turnover, coupled with pay restraints and difficulty recruiting in vital sectors such as digital skills, AI and cyber security, means the UK public sector faces the classic conundrum of having to do more, with less resource.

In times of crisis there are data opportunities

Putting this pessimism aside, even in times of crisis there are opportunities. A theme that we are seeing time and time again is that that the public sector needs to be agile. Recent crises have illustrated the need for agencies to build resilience and better prepare for shocks, so that they can react quickly to change. Agility comes in many forms, and I would like to add another word to support it, the one of innovation, to drive the public sector to pivot.

One of the potential pivots, could be the new UK Government Resilience Framework, published by The Cabinet Office in December, which highlights the increasing role that data plays in designing, delivering, and transforming public services. The framework sets out to improve outcomes, and (with the resourcing issues in mind) drive efficiencies.

Data can be shared across departments to support the UK Government Resilience Framework, for a single, shared view of supply chain risk.

The aim is to improve the use of data “to build a more robust understanding of the country’s strengths and weaknesses and share this information to ensure that every group with a part to play in national resilience is empowered to do so”.


The framework is built upon three fundamental principles:

  1. The need for shared understanding of risks
  2. An increased focus on prevention and preparation for resilience
  3. The need for a whole of society resilience approach

Data can support all the above – highlighting where financial, regulatory or reputational risk in the form of poor environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance may lie and enabling the public sector to spot weak links before they break.

And if that data happens to be enhanced, verified and structured in a way that is linked by a unique identifier – such as the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S number – this can allow for a deep, shared and standardised view of risk.

A push for collaboration

A key behaviour that is needed to facilitate the principles above is collaboration. It is imperative that departments collaborate and share best practice, as well as data. This is not always the case unfortunately, a point made by the IfG event particularly around large programmes of work, where what is learnt often remains at programme level only.

An example of a programme underway, is the Single Trade Window, where supply chain data will be collected only once and shared throughout the supply chain. This cuts bureaucracy, improves use of both people and data storage resources, and ultimately can help reduce fraud and financial crime. If the public sector can use the resilience framework to build a more resilient supply chain through the sharing of data, then this can only be a good thing.

Best practices for using data to ensure a resilient public sector supply chain

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