UK govt urged to further embrace digital

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 28 October, 2020

UK govt urged to further embrace digital

Further embracing digital transformation could unlock a range of opportunities for the UK government, according to a new report.

The report from the Institute for Government found that digital technology promises great advances in areas of knowledge and people management, analysis and external involvement.

Currently information that government holds is scattered across disparate systems and formats, making it difficult for policymakers to find what they need, the report found.

New tools including improved search techniques and automatic tagging will make relevant documents and datasets easier to find.

Data science techniques could also be used by policymakers to find colleagues with relevant experience and insight — as well as external experts — while seeking expertise to complete projects, and tools for online and in-person collaboration and for safely sharing data could solve the too common issues of Ministers and officials operating in silos.

The report also finds that better use of data and technology should result in more comprehensive information being available at every stage of the policymaking process.

Data analytics can help policymakers understand a problem before testing it, conduct real-world trials of proposed solutions and help evaluate and iterate on policies.

Online tools also create new opportunities for government to interface with the public and see their views before setting policy, and better collaborate with the private sector to solve problems.

“Realising these opportunities will not be easy. Government still needs to ‘fix the plumbing’ when it comes to managing information, tackling problems with poor quality data, a lack of standardisation, and the use of legacy technology, all of which continue to impede progress,” the report states.

“There are ethical issues that government will need to confront around the wider use of data and digital technologies, especially with respect to concerns about privacy and bias.”

It urges government to do everything it can to avoid major failures in the use of digital technologies that undermine public trust in government and the digital tools government develops.

To maximise the benefits of digital technology for policymaking while minimising the risks, the report urges that the government coordinate and incentivise future work by monitoring and evaluating existing projects to learn from them.

It also urges the government to appoint a chief data officer with responsibility for coordinating the organisations working in government’s data landscape, and task this official with leading efforts to improve data quality and tackle problems associated with legacy systems.

The government has also been urged to plug key skills gaps, prioritising recruitment of data architects and modelling specialists, and set up a new body focused on more formally involving the public in policymaking.

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