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The UK government has released its highly anticipated Innovation Strategy, which sets out the national approach to digitisation in the public sector.
The Government Technology Innovation Strategy, launched 10 June, outlines proposals under the themes of People, Processes, and Data and Technology, as well as ways in which government can improve coordination and cohesion around innovation, built on consultations across the public and private sector and academia.
Under the Data and Technology theme, the strategy highlights a planned drive to tackle legacy technology in government, first by assessing the scale of the challenge in that area.
The plan includes intentions to take “a coherent and strategic approach to data”, as well as to update of standards and guidance to properly exploit emerging technology.
The strategy was launched in parallel with the announcement of a guide to using artificial intelligence (AI) in the public sector, which is also part of the Technology and Data theme.
However, there were a number of challenges outlined in the strategy that are related to making the most out of new data-driven technologies and understanding what data government holds.
The document adds that while some work has been done to address that issue, a coordinated effort needs to be in place to avoid it becoming “an isolated pocket of good practice”.
Lack of access to data infrastructure was one of the major challenges around the theme identified in the review on AI for government. This included a lack of any consistent way to share data across the public sector, as well as a lack of consistent data science tooling across departments.
Management of data was another issue outlined as part of the challenges mentioned within the Data and Technology section of the Innovation Strategy.
According to the document, even though open application programming interface (API) technical and data standards are available, they have been inconsistently used.
Other documents released in parallel with the strategy included Spark, a marketplace for technology innovation aimed at making it easier for public sector bodies to procure emerging technology offerings.
The creation of Spark is also one of the actions under the Process theme of the strategy, as well as pledges to expand useof the GovTech Catalyst programme, where public sector bodies put forward their challenges and invite proposed solutions.
Under the People theme, the strategy outlines the need to recruit and retain specialist professions and to train existing public servants. This will include seconding senior government leaders into private sector jobs to get them to experience the benefits of experimentation, which can then be used when they return to their government jobs.
Related to the Innovation Strategy are the government’s initiatives around digital identities, designed to boost uptake of the government’s flagship digital identity platform, Gov.uk Verify, in the private sector.
The document will be used to guide the decisions of government departments as they prepare their plans for the next Spending Review.
In the strategy foreword, implementation minister at the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, noted that there is “certainly room to improve coordination and establish a more joined-up approach” when it comes to innovation in the public sector, but added that the document provides the foundations government organisations need to make their future plans.