In this podcast, Jason talks to Richard Davis, the Chief Data Officer at Ofcom, a UK-based regulator. They discuss the use of data at Ofcom, particularly in regards to its regulatory role.
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As a government entity, Ofcom prioritises public welfare, effectiveness, and cost efficiency. To measure its success, Ofcom works closely with its economics team and maintains a data-driven approach to identify trends, assess risks, and prioritise resources.
00:27 Richard’s data journey from academia to his current role at Ofcom
08:33 How the pandemic made Richard realise the value of communication and how he approached Ofcom
12:15 The broad scope of Ofcom and what they do in regulating broadcast
16:01 How Ofcom perceives value drivers from the standpoint of a government regulatory entity
20:50 How data can assist in areas that need more attention in terms of policy or regulation
26:12 Why there needs to be a central team of data literate professionals to assist policy decision-makers
28:50 Exploring the role of different people and overall culture in evidence-based decision making
36:20 Looking at expanding career paths and skill sets for data professionals within Ofcom and other organisations
Ofcom, the UK’s Office of Communications, plays a vital role in broadcast regulation, ensuring that the country’s diverse communication needs are met effectively and efficiently. The importance of its role was underscored during the global pandemic, when the demand for accurate and timely information skyrocketed. As the regulator responsible for overseeing various communication channels, Ofcom worked tirelessly to maintain robust and reliable communication infrastructures, such as ship-to-ship radio, public broadcast systems, and even space-to-earth transmissions. With over 150,000 licences issued across the country, Ofcom’s broad reach has been essential in enabling seamless connectivity during these challenging times.
In addition to traditional broadcast mediums, Ofcom also oversees the regulation of cutting-edge technologies, such as phone, broadband, and 5G/6G networks. This ensures that people across the country have access to the latest in communication tools, and that these services are both accessible and reliable. Moreover, Ofcom has taken on the responsibility of regulating online safety, working to protect users from harmful content and fostering a safer digital environment. As communication technologies continue to evolve, Ofcom remains a steadfast presence, committed to ensuring that the UK’s communication networks meet the needs of its citizens.
Value drivers for government entities, such as Ofcom, differ significantly from those of private organisations. While profitability and customer satisfaction may be the primary drivers for businesses, government entities prioritise effectiveness, cost efficiency, and public welfare. Ofcom’s mission to make communications work for everyone and enhance online safety exemplifies these values, as it aims to provide a comprehensive and secure communications environment for all citizens.
To evaluate its success, Ofcom works closely with its economics team to measure the impact of its regulatory activities. Key performance indicators, such as the number of complaints received, can provide valuable insights into areas that require improvement or increased oversight. By analysing this data, Ofcom can identify other potential value drivers and ensure that its efforts are aligned with the organisation’s overarching goals.
A critical aspect of Ofcom’s value creation lies in its data-driven approach. By maintaining a diverse portfolio of data products, the organisation can identify trends, assess risks, and prioritise resources more effectively. This data-driven strategy allows Ofcom to maximise the value it delivers to the public, while also ensuring efficient use of resources.
As a regulatory body, Ofcom must stay abreast of advancements in the industries it oversees. To maintain its effectiveness, the organisation strives to be as knowledgeable, if not more so, than the entities it regulates. By staying one step ahead, Ofcom can anticipate emerging challenges, adapt its regulatory framework accordingly, and continue to deliver value to the public in an ever-evolving communications landscape.
Organisations such as the Information Commission Office (ICO), Competition Markets Authority (CMA), and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) collaborate with Ofcom to develop and enforce policies that have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of society, including online safety.
Evaluating the success of these policies requires a thorough understanding of their impacts and how to measure them effectively. For instance, in the realm of online safety, organisations must define and measure indicators like child safety improvements. This data-driven approach ensures that policy decisions are grounded in empirical evidence and that they contribute to the greater good.
Having highly skilled policy experts is paramount for regulatory organisations. These experts not only develop and implement effective policies but also provide valuable assistance to policymakers. However, it is essential to acknowledge the diverse skill sets and experiences of data professionals and create opportunities for growth and skill expansion within the organisation. By doing so, agencies can ensure that their workforce remains agile and adaptable in the face of evolving challenges and complexities.
Adopting an evidence-based approach to data in regulatory organisations like Ofcom is not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to cultural shifts. People within these organisations come from diverse backgrounds, which can influence their perspectives on data-driven decision-making and policy development.
Democratising data through low-code or no-code tools can empower employees to contribute meaningfully to data-driven decision-making, regardless of their technical backgrounds. However, a 44% satisfaction rate among Ofcom employees regarding data training and coaching indicates that there is significant room for improvement in this area. Implementing effective training programs and coaching initiatives is crucial, but it is easier said than done.
Establishing guardrails and comprehensive data governance is another key element in promoting a data-driven culture. End-to-end governance reduces bureaucracy, allowing for faster decision-making while still ensuring that employees are aware of the risks associated with data usage and the boundaries within which they should operate.
Organisations like Ofcom, ICO, CMA, and FCA play a crucial role in protecting and serving the public interest by ensuring effective regulation and policymaking. To excel in this mission, these organisations must adopt a data-driven culture that values good data, skilled professionals, and evidence-based decision-making. This requires addressing cultural challenges, balancing proactive and reactive approaches to regulation, democratising data access through low-code or no-code tools, and investing in employee training and coaching. Moreover, establishing robust data governance frameworks and guardrails is essential for mitigating risks and streamlining processes. By tackling these challenges head-on and fostering a culture that embraces data-driven decision-making, these regulatory agencies can enhance their ability to safeguard the public and adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of communication and technology.