Corporate report

The future of citizen data systems

Foresight report examining different approaches to the governance, control and use of citizen data across the world, and future trends.



Citizen data is growing rapidly in volume and variety, and is increasingly internationally mobile. This has the potential to bring huge benefits to the economy and society, but also increased risks.

This report examines different approaches to the governance, control and use of citizen data across the world. It aims to inform public debate and government decisions with an international, whole-system view of citizen data. Variations in regional data systems both reflect and determine developments in the economy, security and society.

The report explores how this might change and builds four plausible scenarios for 2030, to help decision-makers form ambitious strategies that are resilient to the uncertainties that prevail.

Key messages from the report:

  • the UK government should seek to clearly articulate what it wants to achieve with its data system, to help navigate the uncertain future landscape.
  • it will be important to take a holistic approach to data systems, and consider the complex interactions between different components of the system.
  • trade-offs between competing policy objectives will need to be made consciously and transparently.
  • the UK should take opportunities to steer the formation of new global data norms, and respond to them.
  • members of the public need to be an active and engaged part of the UK’s data system.
  • a successful data system will need to be flexible and react quickly to changes.
  • we will need to continually improve our understanding of the data system

This report provides an evidence base to support the National Data Strategy.

Published 9 September 2020