Experiments in generative AI: Five minutes with Christine Bellamy, director of GOV.UK

By on 16/04/2024 | Updated on 16/04/2024

Christine Bellamy, director, GOV.UK, Government Digital Service, discusses adapting to changing user needs, trialling AI, and more.

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, Bellamy will participate in a session on building government websites that create trust, and make services accessible and easy to find.

What are you most interested in discussing at GovernmentDX?

As director of GOV.UK, the UK’s government’s website and digital service, I am keen to speak to international colleagues about their experience in innovating at scale, whilst keeping user needs front and centre.

I want to share how the UK is moving to a multi-channel approach with GOV.UK, and how we’re evolving to meet user expectations and adapting to new technologies. All of this work builds on the user-centred design foundations that the UK has established over the past decade. 

I’m keen to meet as many international peers as I can while in the US. 

What more do you want to achieve in the civil service? 

Lots more! Since launching the strategy for growth, we’ve been delivering on our goals of making GOV.UK multi-channel, reaching more people and evolving to meet user expectations. We’ve experimented with generative AI, launched a new search tool, replatformed our site to make it more secure and there’s still much more to come.

This year, we will be expanding our social media presence, building an app and developing our GOV.UK brand. And, that’s just in the near-term – in the longer term, it’s about adapting to the changing needs of users. Since GOV.UK launched back in 2012, we’ve seen huge changes in online behaviour – such as the increase in mobile and app use and the proliferation of different online formats, as well as the embedding of social media platforms in people’s lives. 

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

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

In the last few weeks, GDS hosted a trilateral delegation from Ukraine and Estonia – and it was an inspiring gathering of digital professionals from across Europe. It was particularly interesting to hear about the nations’ differing experiences with working with AI, Ukraine’s unique context and effective roll out of their Diia app, and to share our perspective on how GOV.UK has been experimenting with generative AI through GOV.UK chat. 

Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas?  

With the huge increase in interest in generative AI, our work experimenting with the new technology in a safe, scaled and iterative manner will be of interest to other nations. Our first experiment is a chatbot called GOV.UK Chat, which is a prototype ChatGPT-powered chatbot. The prototype chatbot allows users to ask questions of GOV.UK and receive a response in natural language – the way they would write or speak in everyday life. We are taking a phased approach to this work, and you can read more about it on the Inside GOV.UK blog.  

Read more: AI could automate 84% of repetitive service transactions across government

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s my father’s dockcard. He was a trawler skipper, and these four pieces of paper show every single boat he’s ever sailed on, and all the many, many places he’s been to after a life of over 60 years at sea. 

What attributes do you most value in people? 

I truly value people with passion, combined with purpose – and of course a healthy dose of fun. For me, this means folks that are bothered – and care.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?

Maybe not the most unusual anymore as its hit a resurgence, but I love spending time in record shops and buying vinyls. I’m happy trawling through the boxes to find an unusual album or perhaps just an old favourite. 

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