Data sharing planned in government IT shake-up

Will privacy be protected?
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

Will privacy be protected?

The government is set to shake up the rules around sharing citizens' data among public sector departments.

As part of the Transformational Government Strategy (TGS) implementation plan, the Cabinet Office is currently looking at ways of sharing data across the public system while "strengthening" privacy rights.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman told silicon.com: "We're working very hard to find an approach that actually strengthens privacy rights, where appropriate - so looking to reinforce penalties to deter people from abusing access to records. Current systems, such as those reinforcing healthcare records, actually make data safer.

"But evidence suggests people don't mind their data being shared - in fact they want it - provided they get a better service."

Apart from organisations such as the police, the Data Protection Act currently prevents any public or private sector organisation from sharing people's personal data without permission. There are strict guidelines to adhere to and if organisations fail to comply the Information Commissioner's Office may investigate.

The move comes as the Cabinet Office yesterday launched an implementation plan for the TGS, part of which includes better training for IT professionals.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office told silicon.com: "The focus is on career opportunities and making sure that the IT profession is not just a job but that they have the training and development to make it a career."

Two pilot schemes for a 'Government IT Academy' have been run so far with the aim of building a full-time training centre for IT professionals later this year.

The plan hinted that IT security professionals are to be highly sought after: "IT security professionals are recognised as having a particular speciality within the government IT profession.

"The Central Sponsor for Information Assurance leads this speciality and is working with the private sector and academia to establish an Institute of Information Security Professionals."

Although the plan focuses on the goals for 2007, the TGS is expected to continue into the next decade.

Jim Murphy, Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for e-government, said in a statement: "There is clearly much to do, as the plan shows, but we are laying the foundations for radical change which will ultimately benefit our customers."

The CIO Council and the Service Transformation Board are the two organisations under the Cabinet Office responsible for the TGS.

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