‘Challenge limits in the civil service’: Five minutes with 10 Downing Street’s chief analyst Laura Gilbert

By on 15/04/2024 | Updated on 15/04/2024

Laura Gilbert, chief analyst and director of data science at the UK’s 10 Downing Street, discusses civil service possibilities and reforms, and inspiration from governments overseas.

This is part of a ‘Five minutes’ series featuring speakers from this week’s Global Government Forum GovernmentDX event (Washington, D.C., April 18-19). During the conference, Gilbert will participate in a session on how government can make the most of analytics and AI.

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

I have a strong need to find meaning in my work. I work very long hours, I work very hard, I need to know it has purpose – and delivering better outcomes for the public whilst protecting taxpayer resources feels important to me.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service? 

Don’t accept what you are told about what is possible and not possible. Many more things are possible, even in civil service, than people think.

Read more: Why a tech industry veteran joined the civil service: Five minutes with GovTech Singapore’s Chang Sau Sheong

If you could introduce one civil service reform, what would it be?  

Outcomes-based performance management and the ability to exit non-performers efficiently.

Which civil servant – past or present – do you most admire and why? 

Dame Emily Lawson, a woman who really knows how to get things done!

Which country’s civil service or which government department or agency are you most inspired by and why? 

I think everyone is very impressed by Denmark’s e-government and Estonia’s digital services. They are really trailblazing when it comes to digital services for the public.

Read more: The battle of the data strategies

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that’s helped you and your colleagues?  

I saw an incredible initiative in Nepal – an AI-based smear test, where you would be assessed and treated in one appointment, in a mobile testing facility. A much better and much cheaper solution than the one we employ!

What is your dream holiday destination? 

Langkawi. I’ve been once. They have six different types of flying animal (that don’t usually fly), which I love – flying snakes, flying frogs, flying fish, flying squirrels, flying lizards and flying lemurs (colugos). Also king cobras, tarantulas, monitor lizards, civets… it’s a wildlife paradise.

What was your first car? 

A seriously tinny black Fiat Panda. It weighed very little though so you could really take off at traffic lights. 

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