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Civica: Tapping the digital goldmine of data
Public bodies across every nation and region of the UK are facing a dilemma. How do you accelerate the pace of digital transformation against a backdrop of leaner budgets, embedded heritage systems creaking at the seams and impending largescale job cuts across the civil service?
Cutting-edge digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robot Process Automation (RPA) undoubtedly have a vital role to play in helping build better, smarter, more responsive public services. From healthcare to education, to the armed forces, we’ve already got lots of tangible examples of digital technologies helping people live better, safer lives. In each case, however, success is predicated on a common denominator: data.
Digital technologies which are grounded in high-quality, easily accessible data will deliver for citizens. Those that are not, will not. Simply procuring new technologies, therefore, no matter how cutting edge, will not deliver the digital transformation that we so urgently need across our public services. To do so, we need to first tackle the data dilemma.
The data dilemma
The good news with data is that public bodies don’t need to go and procure it like they would digital technologies. They’ve already got it. Lots of it. Government departments, arm’s length bodies and local councils, from London to Cardiff, to Edinburgh to Belfast, are sitting on a veritable goldmine of data which, right now, is delivering very little value for citizens.
Google Maps employs high-quality data to guide us from A to B using the fastest, smartest route. In much the same way, public servants can use digital technologies, powered by high-quality data to make the best, smartest decisions in the interests of citizens and communities.
Cracking the data dilemma - Standards, Skills & Sharing
The solution to the ‘data dilemma’ lies in what we at Civica term the 3Ss – Standards, Skills and Sharing.
Public sector data is somewhat similar to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Right now, those pieces are scattered across multiple public bodies and as a result, nobody can see the bigger picture. Data is collected and stored across government using a whole range of formats, with little consistency, making it much harder for officials to form a clear view of the needs of the population at scale, at the local level, or indeed even at the level of the individual citizen. By applying consistent standards and rules right across the civil service for the collection, storage and re-use of data, officials can make smarter decisions, with greater confidence in the outcomes they’re delivering.
You don’t need to be a data scientist or an IT specialist to work with data. Far from it. Public servants do, however, need to be able to understand and exploit data in a way that’s relevant to their role. With the right tools, training and systems, people at all levels of public service delivery, including those in frontline roles, could make better use of data to guide smarter, more innovative decision-making, thereby ensuring the best outcomes for the people they serve.
But standards and skills alone won’t cut it. The final hurdle to be overcome is data sharing. For all of us, data sharing is now a fact of life. From online shopping to posting a product review, we leave a digital footprint everywhere we go. For public bodies, the cumulative wealth of the data they collect could offer a unique, holistic view of the needs of each citizen. That ‘bigger picture’ I mentioned earlier. Utility providers, health services and local authorities, for instance, each hold data on those in vulnerable circumstances such as people struggling to pay bills. By sharing their data in a transparent and secure manner, public service providers can better understand the needs of each citizen they serve and offer solutions which are tailored to individual circumstances.
Meeting the challenge
Accelerating the digital transformation agenda is a big challenge for our public services, but one that government seems determined to meet. With the right combination of digital technologies, powered by high-quality, accessible data, I’ve no doubt this can be achieved.
To read more from #techUKDigitalPS Week, check out our landing page here.
Steve, previously head of CGI’s business in the UK, has gained extensive breadth and depth of experience in business leadership, IT delivery, business transformation and operations, with prior roles at IBM and in the Royal Navy.
On Tuesday 5 April, techUK was delighted to host the Cabinet Office and industry representatives for the launch event for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook which was published on 28 March 2022. The DDaT Sourcing Playbook sets out guidance – in one place – as to how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies and the wider public sector. Through the application of what is commercial best practice, the Playbook addresses 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities that will ensure government gets things right from the start when it comes to procurement.
You can watch the recording of the launch event in full here:
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