Skip to the content

GDS to develop tech innovation strategy


The Government Digital Service (GDS) is working on an innovation strategy for UK public services with a view to publication in spring of next year.

The plan has emerged from its newly published Technology innovation in government survey, which also proposes that the organisation should take the lead role in joining up work around government on emerging technologies.

Written by independent contractor Martin Smith for GDS, the document surveys work taking place in the public sector on technologies such as AI, robotic process automation, distributed ledger technology, biometrics and augmented and virtual reality.

It describes itself as a starting point for the GDS Innovation team, which was recently set up to work with other parts of the Cabinet Office, other departments and the devolved administrations to develop the innovation strategy.

The need for a strategy comes from the dispersal around goverment of projects to harness new technologies and concerns that there could be a significant duplication of efforts and failure for teams to learn from each other’s work.

In response, the survey says GDS should do more to join up efforts from the centre.


Its recommendations include the development of the strategy to align with the existing transformation, digital, industrial and cyber security strategies and the 2019 Spending Review, with GDS working closely with industry and other government teams.

This could be complemented by the creation of new centres of excellence similar to the one the Cabinet Office has created for the use of robotic process automation in government. The report cites the possibilities of centres for AI, biometrics and distributed ledger technology, saying they could increase the take-up of the technologies.

Other recommendations in the survey include scaling up the GDS AI and Emerging Technologies Development Programme for subject matter experts and offering it to all departments; codifying the best practice use of emerging technologies; co-ordinating the work of centres of excellence to share best practice; and building an innovation portfolio of how emerging technology is used.

There should also be an effort to build on GDS’s efforts to map progress. This would involve migrating data from its innovation ecosystem map into a queryable data and visualisation tool, automating the collection of future data points, and looking at a more formal survey of emerging technology across government.

Another detail of the document provides an early hint of the priorities of the Government’s recently formed Geospatial Commission. It says the body is working on a strategy to improve access to and interoperability of data using federated and virtualisation technology, and that it is considering the prospect of a centre of excellence for accelerating the use of geospatial data in all sectors.

Development trends

The survey also rounds up various elements of how emerging technologies are being developed for the public sector. This includes the delivery methods, such as proof of concepts, prototypes, minimum viable products, testbed programmes, sandboxes and accelerators; and the innovation related networks in government, including various communities of interest, the Transformation Peer Group, the Future Policy Network and the Data and Technology Leaders Network.

Its conclusion also emphasises the importance of retaining the capability for GDS to take the lead role.

“Understanding emerging technologies and how they are best used in government services is part of GDS’s capability,” it says. “It is vital to embed and keep technical expertise in GDS teams so they can support departments using these technologies.

“The Data Science Accelerator programme and newly launched GDS and DDaT Emerging Technologies Development programme will ensure that capability is maintained and grown.”

Image by Khairil Zhafri, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.