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Introducing INDEX

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Over the past few months, PUBLIC has been supporting the Cabinet Office to launch an exciting new initiative focused on revamping the way in which the intelligence community consumes, stores, and shares open source and official-sensitive information across HMG. As an official working in the intelligence community, there is a need to wade through vast amounts of complex information quickly, often in high-pressure or time-sensitive situations. This relates to being able to quickly find the right document, briefing or report stored somewhere within the disparate filing systems and email inboxes used across HMG, as well as being able to identify and use credible open-source information and data wherever it may exist on the internet. To try and tackle this problem, the Cabinet Office started out on a Discovery project to build and scale a trusted and secure digital Information and Data Exchange (INDEX). The aim for INDEX is to help the community quickly find and share the relevant information, data, and services they need, to free up their time and energy to focus on the most important parts of their jobs. INDEX will include an accredited cloud that allows centralised access to OFFICIAL SENSITIVE material; to the best platforms and tools within government; and to a stream of curated information and data from the public domain. This core capability will be further enriched by innovations in technology including machine learning and advanced analytics. It will also act as a central touchpoint for connecting people and teams working on similar or adjacent challenges, to help teams in different departments and with different skill sets to share information and work together. Building this kind of system - with so many technical, functional and user complexities - is a long-term undertaking. And the key priority is to make sure that the foundations are solid, and we are solving the right problems in the right way. So the focus of this first period of the project has not been to rush building the entire system end-to-end, but rather to engage deeply with users to understand what they need, and start testing and piloting things in small iterations. PUBLIC and the Cabinet Office have just completed a round of in-depth interviews and workshops with users across multiple departments and a variety of roles to better understand the gaps in the current information search and discovery process, and how we can best address them. During this process, we identified six broad types of potential users of the platform (user personas) and over 100 user needs related to finding, accessing, storing, and sharing information. With a clearer sense of these user needs captured, the next step has been the technical proof-of-concept projects (POCs), which are currently being developed with selected technical delivery partners. These POCs are deliberately taking a narrow scope, aiming to solve the highest priority challenges in a short time frame between now and October. For now, the principal focus is how we can improve the search and discovery of government-held documents (including OFFICIAL SENSITIVE documents), before we later take on the challenge of open-source knowledge and data discovery. As with everything we do, we will keep testing iterations and new features with our users, keeping the feedback loops between what they need and what they are building as close as possible. We will be keeping this site posted with some of the key developments and findings of this technical proof-of-concept phase, including details of what the next phases look like, and what’s coming next. Stay tuned!

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Sep 20, 2021