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A majority of public sector organisations are taking the potential for data sharing seriously, according to a Kable survey.

The results of the survey, sponsored by data integrity company QAS, show that 43 per cent of respondents said their organisations are working on sharing data with other public sector bodies, and another 21 per cent were actively considering what they could do in the field. Thirty-five per cent said they were currently taking no action.

The trend is even more pronounced for internal data sharing: 64 per cent said their organisations were already sharing data, with 14 per cent considering and 21 per cent saying no.

Respondents agreed that a number of suggested benefits are possible. The most widely identified was an increase in efficiency, for which 79 per cent answered yes. Others that encouraged more than half the respondents to agree were improved citizen service with 74 per cent and improved internal working with 59 per cent. No one thought there would be no benefits at all.

While people were aware of the barriers to data sharing, there were only two categories for which more than half of them saw it as a big issue. When it comes to sharing with other organisations, 67 per cent thought legal issues could provide an impediment, and 51 per cent saw technical issues as a problem.

Most of the other possible barriers – including trust issues, procedural issues, and lack of clarity about the Data Protection Act – drew response rates of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. For internal data sharing 15 per cent of respondents said they saw no barriers, but everybody thought there was at least one problem to overcome for external sharing.

Kable chair William Heath commented: "We've seen a lot of assertions about data sharing but not much customer based evidence, or informed customer involvement in the design of services based on shared data. Where it helps the customer, we can expect widespread informed consent to data sharing.

"There will be areas where data sharing is understood and broadly accepted as part of a regulated relationship, and society overrules the objections of the subject who find the sharing inconvenient.

"But unless we are frank and honest about these 'barriers' and the extent to which they may be valid objections we're not at the starting point of building e-enabled public services on a foundation of trust."

The survey involved 92 respondents, with two-thirds coming from central, local or regional government.

This article was originally published Kablenet.

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