CBS Chief Data Officer plays a key role in the responsible use of data

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen / Ellen Groen-Daems
Ruben Dood is the Chief Data Officer at CBS
© Sjoerd van der Hucht
Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has recently appointed its first Chief Data Officer. This individual is responsible for promoting data sharing between CBS and other parts of the public sector. The Chief Data Officer also plays a key role in ensuring the responsible use of data. At CBS, these tasks are the responsibility of Ruben Dood, who is also director of the Centre for Policy-Related Statistics. He is keen to tell us more about his role.

Responsible use of data

Data sharing and the responsible use of data are tasks for all parts of the public sector. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) plays a coordinating role on behalf of central government in this area.
One of the steps taken in order to promote data awareness and data sharing between government bodies is the appointment of a Chief Data Officer at all government organisations. Their role is to encourage data-driven working and data sharing.


Ruben Dood explains: ‘Across the whole public sector there is an increasing focus on data-driven working methods. This means making wider use of data in order to extract insights, develop policy and carry out monitoring. What this comes down to in practice is that government organisations, businesses and science need to be able to use each other’s data. And that means cooperation between different parts of government. The goal is more efficient data sharing and better data compatibility – by adopting the same definitions, for example. We have seen some clear steps in that direction – in the form of the Policy Compass, for instance, and the increasingly clear regulations around the evaluation and monitoring of policies under the Government Accounts Act.’

Data intensity

The focus of CBS’s Chief Data Officer is, above all, external. ‘The reason for this is obvious: The intensity of data usage within CBS is higher than in any other parts of government, generally speaking. Other parts of government may choose to give certain responsibilities to their Chief Data Officer, but for CBS it doesn’t make much sense to ask a single individual to take responsibility for that. After all, taking proper care with internal data usage is already a standard aspect of the way we work. That includes formulating a data strategy and guidelines for describing metadata, developing policies around data anonymisation and other techniques to safeguard privacy,’ Ruben Dood continues.

Data of sufficient quality

CBS’s Chief Data Officer participates in various government consultative circuits, such as meetings concerning the Intergovernmental Data Strategy (IBDS) and the Interdepartmental Data Consultation Platform (IDO). At the same time, he liaises with the Chief Data Officers of other administrative bodies, such as the Land Registry and the Chamber of Commerce. ‘There are a number of prerequisites for making optimum use of government data. The quality of that data has to be sufficiently good for the purpose that it’s going to be used for. And in order to share data, it has to be standardised so that it can be used by other parties. The appropriate steps also need to be taken with respect to metadata, and we need to agree on how data can be shared. Principles such as data minimisation and privacy protection are key. There are numerous initiatives underway for this purpose. One is the development of the Federated Data System, which includes agreements and best practices for data sharing.’

European policies and legislation

Clearly, then, CBS’s Chief Data Officer has a mainly external focus. ‘In particular, I’ll be trying to use CBS’s knowledge and experience to make the data landscape of the Netherlands more effective. At the same time, I want to be aware of themes that could impact us at CBS. Most current examples come from European policy or legislation. Take the Data Governance Act, for example, which we have been asked to play an active role in. But also the AI Act, which is part of the European Data Strategy and has data spaces as its key building block. The goal of data spaces is also to facilitate data sharing and improve Europe’s competitiveness. They are structured by theme. For example, CBS is involved in designing the European Health Data Space. A number of CBS colleagues are now well-versed in this subject.’