Judges pick Data Challenge shortlist in hard-fought Canadian semi-final

By on 28/05/2024 | Updated on 29/05/2024
Judges applaud a team’s presentation as event moderator Siobhan Benita appears on the screen: the teams presented remotely to an Ottawa-based panel. Pic by David Evans

The shortlist has been announced in Canada’s second Public Service Data Challenge, after judges heard pitches from the nine longlisted teams and selected four to move forward to the final in October.

“Choosing four teams to shortlist was extremely difficult. We were highly impressed by the quality of the presentations, all nine of which clearly rested on excellent teamwork, thorough research, a great deal of expertise, and a huge amount of hard work,” said the judges, six top data leaders from organisations across the federal public service.  

Under the Data Challenge, federal public servants were invited to send in their ideas for how government could make better use of data. With the support of the organisers – Statistics Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Global Government Forum – the judges selected the nine most promising ideas, then interdisciplinary, cross-departmental teams of public service volunteers were formed around each idea to carry out research and development work.

Read more: Data Challenge serves as an engine of innovation for Canada’s public services

On 15 May, these nine teams pitched their proposals to the judging panel, then fielded questions. In a discussion afterwards that lasted nearly 90 minutes, the judges picked a shortlist of four ideas. The selected proposals aim to:

  • Apply ‘process mining’ techniques to public service business processes, identifying opportunities to boost efficiency and strengthen compliance, predictability and trust in government;
  • Build a data platform matching homeless citizens with the beds, food, clothing and counselling available at homeless shelters, and provide projections of future demand to assist forward planning;
  • Bring together data on energy efficiency spending and carbon emission reductions, much improving both the targeting of public investments and the information available to property owners planning their own retrofits;
  • Provide a common set of data definitions and tools for use by staff across government, promoting collaboration and supporting better data exchange.

The judges went out of their way to praise the other five ideas, saying: “Even where we can’t take an idea forward to the final, we’ll be exploring the potential to build on that team’s research and development.

“To these teams, thank you very much for all your work; we really hope that you have enjoyed participating, and come away with new skills and contacts.” 

The judging panel pose with the Large Organization Award for Outstanding Digital Leadership, recently awarded to the Data Challenge programme. Pic by David Evans

The shortlisted teams will now continue with their research and development work, taking on board the challenges put to them by judges at the semi-final and the feedback provided afterwards. They’ll meet the judging panel again in October at the final, when the winner will be decided – receiving the support of top public service leaders as it moves towards implementation.

“Congratulations to the shortlisted teams”, said the judges. “Good luck with your research, and remember that help is available if you encounter obstacles along the way. Reach out to the Data Challenge team, and we’ll do what we can to assist. We look forward to seeing you at the final.”

Read more: Canadian government departments are balancing AI optimism with caution

This is the second year of the Data Challenge’s operation. Its first winner – a plan to build a ChatGPT-powered public service chatbot, detailed in our recent article – is now up and running. Meanwhile, the Data Challenge programme has itself won an award: the Large Organization Award for Outstanding Digital Leadership, which is part of the Government of Canada’s Digital Community Awards 2024.

More details are available on the Data Challenge website, where you can learn about all the longlisted ideas and watch a video of the semi-final.

Sign up: The Global Government Forum newsletter provides the latest news, interviews and features on AI, data, workforce, and sustainability in government.

About Matt Ross

Matt is Global Government Forum's Contributing Editor, providing direction and support on topics, products and audience interests across GGF’s editorial, events and research operations. He has been a journalist and editor since 1995, beginning in motoring and travel journalism – and combining the two in a 30-month, 30-country 4x4 expedition funded by magazine photo-journalism. Between 2002 and 2008 he was Features Editor of Haymarket news magazine Regeneration & Renewal, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development; and from 2008 to 2014 he was the Editor of UK magazine and website Civil Service World, then Editorial Director for Public Sector – both at political publishing house Dods. He has also worked as Director of Communications at think tank the Institute for Government.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *