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Civil Service chief points to strategy for service automation


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Civil Service is planning a more strategic and coordinated approach to the automation of its processes, its chief executive has said.

John Manzoni was speaking at IT industry association techUK’s Building the Smarter State conference in London yesterday, where he emphasised the increasing automation of services, pointing to the work of the Department of Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs in the field, and said technology chatbots and optical character recognition will increase the scope.

“There are now an estimated 140 automations in operation across the Civil Service, which entails many thousands of bots,” he said.

“To date this has been driven from the bottom up as business units develop technologies for bespoke solutions for individual processes. We’ve realised some tangible benefits and followed the path of many organisations before us.

“But we are now starting to see that we have to complement the bottom up approach with a more strategic coordinated programme. We are in the early stages of this but I am convinced that we must build on what we have done to date at the same time as building a more strategic programme.

“That will take investment, effort and focus, but it will drive much greater benefits and give us access to what follows – intelligent automation, AI and machine learning.”

Smarter working

Manzoni highlighted the broad thrust of using digital technology in the Civil Service. He said it is supporting the effort to develop smarter working, build connected workplaces and make services more citizen centric.

“Our digital transformation of public services continues apace,” he said. “There are now about 800 services available digitally, from 650 million vehicle tax checks, to import licence applications for pets and rare birds.

“As we continue to build new systems as we exit the EU we have the opportunity to build fully digital services. While the existence of deadlines means we are not introducing fully digital services everywhere on day one, we are certainly planning for the longer term where we have huge ambitious plans.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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