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Civil Service Data Challenge aims to improve use of data

Business and government have partnered to launch a Dragon’s Den-style competition to encourage civil servants to come up with ideas on how to improve the use of data

The government has partnered with business to launch a data challenge for civil servants, aiming to improve the use of data in Whitehall.

The Civil Service Data Challenge allows civil servants to come up with ideas from the frontline on how they think the government can make better use of data to improve services and strengthen policy making.

The project has backing from several government bodies, including the Government Digital Service (GDS), Cabinet Office and the Office for National Statistics, while being sponsored by the heads of the Policy and Operational Delivery professions in government.

It is also supported by NTT DATA UK, with the winning ideas receiving advice and development support worth £50,000 from the company.

Civil Service chief operating officer (COO) and Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm said that civil servants will have ideas for how to improve the use of data, “strengthening staff tools and benefiting citizens”.

“We want to tap into the expertise and creativity of staff in every role, grade, profession and organisation,” he said. “To serve elected leaders and the public, the Civil Service must make better use of its enormous data assets – building policies around people’s needs, cutting costs, and creating personalised, accessible public services.

“We know the most innovative organisations are those which draw on the skills, enthusiasm and commitment of staff across the workforce, listening to employees and acting on their ideas. The Civil Service Data Challenge is an important element of our work to build a more responsive, innovative and effective Civil Service.”

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The data challenge will be overseen Dragon’s Den-style by a panel of judges, including Cabinet Office non-executive board member Henry De Zoete, who won backing on Dragon’s Den in 2018 alongside his partner for their business Look After My Bills.

Other panel judges include Civil Service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm, Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez and head of public sector at NTT DATA UK, Vicki Chauan.

Civil servants have until 14 May 2021 to come up with ideas. The ideas will then be shortlisted by the panel and the eight most promising ideas will then be taken forward to test viability, potential benefits and look at obstacles for delivery.

In September and December 2021, the judges will pick the best ideas for further development.

Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez said that civil servants are “full of ideas on how to realise the government’s objectives”.

“Now we want to apply that inventiveness and expertise to one of the most fundamental challenges facing the civil service: that of realising the potential of our huge data assets,” she said.

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