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Government publishes Innovation Strategy

11/06/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

The UK Government has published its Innovation Strategy for using new technologies in public services, with a three pronged emphasis on building skills, providing the environment for experimentation and better harnessing data.

Lightbulb in the dark

Titled the Government Technology and Innovation Strategy, it has been launched by Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden along with statement that he wants to boost the prospects for the country’s govtech sector.

Plans for the strategy first became public in August of last year along with the publication of the Technology innovation in government survey, which has been one of the main sources on which the Government Digital Service (GDS) has drawn in developing the approach.

It has been published alongside new guidance on the use of AI in government and the launch of the new Spark technology procurement framework for the public sector.

The document highlights the three main themes – headlined as people, processes and technology – with plans for how each will be developed.

Data literacy

For building skills and culture the priorities are to create data literate civil servants, with an increased data science capability, along with a pipeline of digital talent and more secondments for Civil Service leaders in industry.

To support this, the Data Science Partnership – led by GDS and the Office for National Statistics’ Data Science Campus – are undertaking an audit of the relevant capability in the public sector and will make recommendations later this year on upskilling the analytical workforce through a range of training opportunities.

Efforts to build the environment for experimentation will include an emphasis on procurement and business case processes, and a scaling up of successful solutions. They include the launch of the Spark marketplace to encourage an open and agile approach in dealing with emerging technologies and their suppliers, and more procurement based on specific public service challenges, such as those within the GovTech Catalyst programme.

There will also be a review of the application of the business case process in digital projects with a view to updating the Agile Business Case Guidance for government.

The document acknowledges that the concept of innovation is gaining more traction in government, but says it is often seen as the responsibility of specialist teams, and there is a need to embed it more widely around the Civil Service.

Part of this would be in encouraging professionals at all levels to move between government and innovative technology firms, with people coming from both sides, so they could spread best practice.

Access and analysis

The data priorities include a familiar emphasis on the need for public bodies to access and analyse data safely and efficiently, the use of flexible technology components and platforms, and the development of effective standards to help share best practice.

Specific plans include the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s development of a National Data Strategy to support a coherent and strategic approach to its use. The first phase of this will be an open call for evidence on issues such as trust, inclusion and participation.

There will also be efforts to continuously improve the technology estate and an updating of standards and guidance in the use of data.

The document’s introduction says it is not an exhaustive list of what government will do with emerging technologies over the coming years, but a framework that departments should reference as they develop their plans for the Spending Review later this year.

Minister's warning

Dowden said: “The UK has led the world in harnessing technology to transform public services, but we cannot afford to sit back. Adoption of new technologies by the private sector is changing how people live their lives and the public sector has to pick up the pace to stay relevant.

“Artificial intelligence is already being used to identify rogue garages and improve prison safety, but government can go much further. New technologies like AI can deliver better services for less and I am determined that government is at the forefront of this revolution.

“Through initiatives like Spark, I also want to make it easier for start-ups and small businesses to deliver services for government so that we make the most of the UK’s thriving govtech sector.”

Image by Khairil Zhafri, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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