In the future, there will be data laboratories and “chief data scientists” in the federal ministries and the chancellery. They should drive digitalization forward. The measure is part of the data strategy published in January – and one of a few that the government has started so far.
Data Scientists: Important Skills
The Federal Government establishes data laboratories for all Federal Ministries and the Federal Chancellery. In addition, so-called “Chief Data Scientists” who have completed higher education in data science course are to be deployed. The measure is part of the data strategy published in January 2021 with around 240 measures. This should strengthen the data society in the areas of science, business, and civil society. The aim of the data strategy is, among other things, to make data infrastructures efficient and sustainable, to make data use more innovative and responsible, and, last but not least, to restructure the data competence of the administrations at the federal level.
The established data laboratories are intended to serve as independent technical competence centers and to bundle data collection competencies as well as data analysis competencies. The laboratory teams should also be able to assess political innovation measures. “More public data, more transparent work, and more citizen-friendly services are the goals here,” said the federal government.
The measure is also intended to make the company’s own employees “fit in dealing with data evaluation, data collection, and data visualization”. In an interministerial working group, care is also taken to ensure that all “Chief Data Scientists” and employees of the data laboratories can exchange information on a regular basis. It is also planned to invite international guests for discussions once a month. The costs for setting up the laboratories and using external data experts for the period 2021 to 2024 amount to around 240 million euros from additional budget funds.
Ministries must submit their own concept
The government relies on an agile way of working: Each ministry should determine its own needs for a data laboratory and search for appropriate solutions with the help of its “Chief Data Scientists”. Dorothee Bär, Minister of State for Digitization, is enthusiastic.
Many ministries and we in the Federal Chancellery are already working on concepts for our own data laboratory. We want to take the first important steps here in the Chancellery by September and open the data laboratory. The additional millions can help to bring about a real culture change here towards more data-driven politics.
While the Chancellery is setting an example, most ministries are not yet providing any information about their concepts. At the request of the Tagesspiegel Backgrounds, the ministries referred to ongoing coordination processes. However, all relevant plans should be in place by the end of the legislative period.
Focus too much on the economy and less on the common good
The plan around the data strategy has been increasingly criticized in the past. Although this shows a step in the right direction, the focus is too much on the economy and too little on the common good and general democracy. Many of the data strategy projects are also theoretically advanced, but can hardly be translated into concrete measures. As of June, the government says it has completed five percent of the projects and passed the relevant legislative proposals.
The fact that the federal government is now actually putting the plan to set up data laboratories and the provision of external experts into practice could therefore at least be a glimmer of hope. The government itself sees one reason for the urgency in the handling of data in the Corona crisis. “Current and reliable data” are important for good government action. A lack of data protection and security gaps on the part of test centers had repeatedly caused criticism of the authorities in the past.