New Data Governance Board to Oversee Ireland’s Public Service

Minister Michael McGrath said the board would ‘help Ireland be an exemplar and European leader in the use of data.’

Ireland now has a Data Governance Board to create and implement a framework for using and sharing data across the public service sector.

Established under the Data Sharing and Governance Act 2019, the new 12-member board was announced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, TD, yesterday (22 December). It is chaired by the Government’s chief information officer Barry Lowry.

The framework created by the board will provide a statutory basis for public bodies in Ireland to share personal data safely and transparently to deliver public services. Under the framework, the Government said that data will “only be shared where necessary and only in accordance with the law”.

Board members come from a diverse range of sectors and the public service in Ireland, including the industrial, academic, legal and technical sectors. An international adviser from the OECD, Barbara Ubaldi, is also a member.

McGrath said the “diverse experience and expertise” of the Data Governance Board would “help Ireland be an exemplar and European leader in the use of data”.

He added that the board would help the Government apply data to develop evidence-based policies and be more responsive in public services planning and provision. It will ensure Ireland is “well placed” to effectively use data while “upholding privacy, transparency and choice”.

‘Trend towards digitalisation’

The board’s first task will be to move public service bodies to the new framework for data sharing under the 2019 act. In the long run, the board will advise the Government on the ethical management of data and best practices for sharing it across the sector.

“The trend towards digitalisation offers great opportunities to improve people’s lives and wellbeing through the provision of more accessible and timely services. This has been in clear focus during the course of the pandemic,” McGrath said.

“However, we are all increasingly conscious of the importance of protecting the corresponding data which is generated from digital and online activity.”

Working with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the board will also report on public service bodies’ compliance with the new standards and guidelines. It will assist the Government with new data-sharing initiatives, including those deriving from the upcoming EU Data Governance Act.

The EU Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement last month on this new data law to provide a framework for sharing data across the bloc.