Third edition of Civil Service Data Challenge opens for entries

By on 12/10/2023 | Updated on 11/10/2023
A picture of the Civil Service Data Challenge prize trophies

The UK Civil Service Data Challenge, which aims to identify ways that government can improve how it uses data to deliver public services, has opened for entries for 2023-24.

Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart has launched the third iteration of the initiative, highlighting that it has delivered tangible benefits for the public in the last two years.

Run by the Cabinet Office, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Global Government Forum and IT services business NTT DATA UK, the challenge invites civil servants to put forward ideas for how government can improve its use of data.

At the end of the challenge, the best idea will receive £50,000 (US$61,435)-worth of technical support and the backing of senior leaders to move forward to implementation. Officials are also invited to volunteer to join one of the project teams developing the most promising ideas, and every participant will gain new skills, experiences and contacts.

Enter the Civil Service Data Challenge

Last year’s winning idea was a plan to use data to detect incidents of modern slavery, while in 2022 the winning idea – put forward by a team from Natural England – proposed using artificial intelligence technologies to scour aerial photography of peatlands habitats in search of drainage channels. This would then help guide work to dam them up, and thus to restore these precious wetland habitats and carbon sinks.

Both these ideas were progressed to delivery – and other strong ideas from the last two years have also been taken forward.

Announcing the start of the third year of the competition – with a deadline for entries of Wednesday 1 November – Burghart said: “I am delighted to support the Civil Service Data Challenge, which allows us to use its ideas to drive efficiency, improve public services and help tackle some of the most pressing challenges in our society, and over the past two years we are already seeing tangible benefits delivered to the public.”

Once the ideas have been submitted, a judging panel of senior data and digital civil servants will select the eight most promising ideas, with teams of together civil servants from across all departments, professions, roles and grades formed to research them in dedicated project teams.

The teams then make their pitches to the judging panel at the ‘Dragon’s Den’-style semi-final, giving presentations and fielding the judges’ questions. Four teams are selected to move on to a second development stage and the final, where they come before the judges again.

The overall winner receives additional development support from NTT DATA, as well as the backing of civil service chief operating officer, Alex Chisholm, and the other programme champions, to drive the idea to implementation.

Read more: An ideas accelerator: how the UK’s Data Challenge built two new public services

‘The creativity and innovation has been truly outstanding’

Sue Bateman, the chief data officer at the UK government’s Central Digital and Data Office, and one of the judges, said: “This initiative was started because we know there is a combination of lots of knotty data issues, and many talented people across the civil service, who need a platform to launch their ideas.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen that demonstrated across the 400 ideas submitted, and 16 brilliant semi-finalists. During this year’s data themed One Big Thing, we want to see if we can tap into even more data creativity and ideas.

“Everyone is welcome to enter as a team or with an idea, previous entrants have worked in operational delivery, policy, as well as across DDaT and as analysts.”

Vicki Chauhan, chair of judges and head of public sector at NTT DATA UK&I, added: “The success of the Civil Service Data Challenge is thanks largely down to the teams who invest time and energy in working together to develop cutting edge ideas every year. The creativity and innovation on show has been truly outstanding and we are very much looking forward to seeing the ideas that are brought forward this year!”

After the closing date judges will convene and a long list of applications will be published on 10 January, the Dragon’s Den-style semi-final pitches take place on 21 March 2024, and the grand final concludes the competition, on 4 July 2024.

The winner will receive funding to help bring the project to life, as well as the backing of senior leadership within the civil service and technical expertise from NTT DATA.

To enter please complete this short entry form by 1 November 2023

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.

Leave a Reply

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