Canadian public servants urged to send in data ideas

By on 04/10/2023 | Updated on 04/10/2023
Last year's Public Service Data Live winners from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Nicole Johnson (with trophy), Steve Rennie (behind Johnson) and Rafael Moraes (far left, middle row) from the winning team, with the judges and other team members.
Last year's Public Service Data Live winners from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Nicole Johnson (with trophy), Steve Rennie (behind Johnson) and Rafael Moraes (far left, middle row), with the judges and other team members

Canada’s most senior data leader has launched the country’s second Public Service Data Challenge, urging staff across the workforce to send in their ideas for how government could make better use of data.

“The Data Challenge is designed to put you in the driving seat and help you to develop your skills and careers while improving services and the tools available to public servants,” chief data officer Stephen Burt told a 500-strong audience of public servants in Ottawa. “Whatever your role, profession, employer or seniority, we want to hear from you.”

Speaking at AccelerateGOV – a one-day conference exploring the potential and requirements of digital technologies, hosted by Global Government Forum and the Government of Canada ­­– Burt explained that the Data Challenge is designed to drive innovation by tapping into the expertise, enthusiasm and inventiveness of the workforce.

Read more: AccelerateGOV 2023 as it happened

To realise the potential of data, “we will need the help of every public servant. You are the real experts in the systems and datasets we use every day, and I know that many of you have ideas for how they could be improved,” he said. “Like all innovative organisations, the government wants to empower you, our colleagues, to put forward your ideas, and to take the most promising ones forward into implementation”.

The Data Challenge will open for entries on 24 October, enabling public servants both to submit their ideas, and to volunteer to join the project teams taking forward the most promising concepts. “You’ll get to work in an interdisciplinary team with people from across the public service, build skills and contacts in a field that’s becoming ever more important to public service delivery, and present your ideas to our judges’ panel of senior digital leaders,” commented Burt.

The applications deadline will fall in December, and in February the judges’ panel – comprising senior data leaders from across government – will announce which ideas will be taken forward under the programme. The teams will then research and develop their ideas, presenting them to the judges at ‘Dragon’s Den’-style Semi-Final and Final events – with the latter held in September 2024.

The programme’s aim is to catalyse the launch of new services: having benefited from nine months’ development by a dedicated team, support and guidance from the judges, and the backing of top digital leaders, projects are well placed to move into implementation. Last year the wining idea, put forward by Jay Conte of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, involved applying AI to help employees, people and businesses find relevant public services, and Burt highlighted that it is now well on the way to implementation: “This idea is now being put into action by our colleagues at AgCan.”

“I would urge you all to send in your ideas for how government can make better use of data,” said Burt. “Please get involved!”

To learn more about the Public Service Data Challenge, visit the dedicated website – where you can learn more about the process and the requirements. The Data Challenge opens for entries on 24 October 2023.

Read more about last year’s winning project: Agricultural advice AI wins Canada’s Public Service Data Challenge

About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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