Guest Blog: Oliver Dowden’s GovTech Innovation Strategy

Oliver Dowden

10 June 2019

Oliver Dowden MP, Minister for Implementation, writes a guest article for PUBLIC about the new Government Technology Innovation Strategy. 

It’s almost 18 months to the day since I became the minister responsible for driving the digital transformation of government.

In that time, I’ve met tech leaders from across the UK and Europe. And from the GovTech Summit in Paris, hosted by President Macron, to the Innovation in Public Administration Forum held in Rome, I’ve heard about how the world looks to the UK to lead.

That respect comes from the progress the government has made since 2010, supported by our world class GovTech sector.

GOV.UK now has 15.6 million unique users per week, and by 2020 we will be delivering at least 86 end-to-end digital services. This all helps to improve the interaction between government and the people it serves, and saves taxpayers billions.

But whilst it’s good to acknowledge our achievements, I’m impatient to go further. I know we still have work to do and rising expectations to meet.

So as new technologies emerge, I want government to be at the forefront of their adoption.

We’re already seeing the benefits this can bring. For example, the Department for International Development is using AI and satellite technology to estimate population sizes, so that it can deliver overseas aid more effectively.

And through our GovTech Catalyst programme, we’ve made it easier for private sector innovators to help us solve public sector challenges. Of the companies winning contracts through the programme so far, 92% are SMEs and almost a third have fewer than 9 employees.

But we want to do more. To truly take advantage of emerging technologies, we need to use them at scale, in the right places, and for the right opportunities.

So, I’m making three announcements at London TechWeek:

First, to get the best emerging technology solutions into government more quickly, we’re launching Spark – a new marketplace for technology innovation. Spark will offer a platform for suppliers to sell successful proof-of concepts across the public sector – creating greater visibility for the work of GovTech companies, especially start-ups.

Second, we’re publishing a new Guide to Using AI in the Public Sector, which is based on the first ever cross-government review of how AI is currently being used. From improving cancer screening to reducing fraud, the guide will give public sector organisations the tools they need to help them assess opportunities for AI and use this exciting technology ethically and safely.

And third, we’re setting out some basic steps for government’s use of emerging technology, based on engagement with the tech sector, through our Government Technology Innovation Strategy. It addresses the core issues of People, Processes, and Data and Technology, to create an environment where experimentation and new thinking become the norm for public services across the UK.

We still have much further to go, but I believe these three initiatives are important steps towards ensuring that the UK continues to lead the world in using emerging technology. So that potential is unlocked and government – and all the people it serves – can reap the benefits.

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