Editorial

Civil servants battle for best idea to improve government’s use of data

Civil Service Data Challenge asks civil servants to submit ways government can improve the current use of data within government

Posted 4 August 2021 by Christine Horton


A list of ideas submitted by civil servants to help government enhance its use of data has been published.

The Civil Service Data Challenge calls upon civil servants to present ideas to improve the current use of data within government and boost efficiency, improve public services and strengthen policymaking. 

Following its launch in March, more than 200 ideas were submitted. Now, eight have been selected to be judged by a panel comprising senior digital and data leaders in government, with representatives from the Cabinet Office, NHSX, and HMRC.

The longlisted ideas include:

  • Automating Vehicle Excise Duty discounts and driving licence approvals for PIP claimants   
    • Creating a Civil Service geographical capability map
    • Gathering better statistics on the distribution of UK citizens abroad
    • Deploying AI to protect and enhance our peatlands
    • Tracking medicines stocks and movements to safeguard future supplies 
    • Improving levels of prisoner social contact to support rehabilitation
    • Using synthetic data applications to improve policymaking and service planning
    • Improving detection of benefit and tax fraud through richer data exchange between DWP, HMRC and UK Visas and Immigration

The ideas will be tested for their viability, the potential benefits and any obstacles to delivery. Just four ideas will make it through to the live presentation final in December 2021. Of these four, the best ideas will receive both technical advice and development support from NTT DATA UK, and the backing of top civil servants, to help these ideas become reality.

Valuable ideas

The competition is sponsored by Alex Chisholm, the Civil Service Chief Operating Officer and Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office; Julia Lopez MP, Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office; Tamara Finkelstein, Head of Policy Profession & Permanent Secretary, Defra; and Peter Schofield, Head of the Operational Delivery Profession & Permanent Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions.

“The competition so far has clearly demonstrated how valuable our civil servants’ ideas are and highlights the importance of bringing different minds together to explore how current business practices can be improved,” said Chisholm. “We’ve seen extremely innovative ideas submitted that have a real chance to improve and influence staff tools, policy-making, and enable us to deliver a greater service to the public.”

Vicki Chauhan, head of public sector at NTT DATA UK, said the response to the challenge “has been fantastic.”

“It’s providing a platform for civil servants to share their ideas for using data to directly improve services for the public, and see those ideas brought to life. We are looking forward to working with the judges and civil servant teams to help these ideas realise the potential of data within government.”