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AI and data experts to be brought into government through secondment programme

The government has announced plans for a secondment programme designed to bring digital experts into government departments

The government wants to bring tech experts from the private sector into government departments as part of a secondment programme designed to improve the digital skills of civil servants.

This follows a National Audit Office (NAO) report in March that found the people making digital transformation decisions in government are generalists who don’t properly understand the challenges.

According to a government announcement, it will work with major tech firms and plans to target FTSE 100 companies to second digital experts, who it referred to as “digital gurus”, into departments. It will also give civil servants the chance to spend time working in private businesses.

The first in the series will be the digital and data secondment scheme, which will be launched in the Autumn. The programme will then be expanded to other sectors such as science and engineering.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin said this was one of the measures designed to take advantage of innovation and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in government to make it more efficient.

“There are brilliant people in our Civil Service but I know there are many, as can be the case in any organisation, that feel frustrated and stifled by bureaucracy,” he said.

“We need every colleague to be calling out waste and inefficiency, determined to end the frustrations I know many share,” said Quin. “They can do so by more specialisation, more access to outside voices and fresh ideas, staying longer in post, delivering certainty on what we are seeking to achieve and benefitting from crisp evaluation on whether we have, while embracing the digital future which will transform all our working lives.”

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The government said it has made savings of £4.4bn, including more than £1.3bn saved through using advanced data analytics to detect and prevent fraud. The figures from the Crown Commercial Service also revealed the government saved about £370m through modernising legacy IT systems.

Quin said the government will launch a digital platform to help move civil servants between departments, which “will allow the Civil Service to be more agile as different areas need more resourcing”. This is expected to save approximately £100m over the next five years.

In March, a National Audit Office (NAO) report concluded the people that run government departments need a better understanding of digital transformation if billions of pounds of efficiency savings are to be made.

In Digital transformation in government: addressing the barriers to efficiency, the NAO warned: “For government to realise billions of pounds in efficiency savings, those running departments need to improve their understanding of digital transformation.

“Most digital change decisions in government are made by generalist leaders who lack the expertise to fully comprehend and tackle digital challenges,” it said.

An earlier NAO report in July 2021 concluded there had been a quarter of a century of underperformance in digital transformation strategies by successive governments.

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