UK government preps mobile app strategy, India’s PM used AI to inform 25-year roadmap, and more: news in brief

By on 25/04/2024 | Updated on 25/04/2024
Image: Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

Global Government Forum’s weekly news roundup of public service intelligence

UK government preps mobile app strategy for launch next year

UK government digital leaders have developed guidelines to inform the cross-government mobile app strategy that will launch next year, the Cabinet Office’s parliamentary secretary confirmed in a recent update.

In the Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 roadmap for digital and data policy paper, launched in 2022 and updated last year, the government outlined its goal to provide a “joined-up mobile experience of government services by agreeing a common mobile app strategy, framework and technical standards, and tracking the availability and rating of mobile services”. This work is led by the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO).

Answering a written parliamentary question last week about progress on the strategy, Alex Burghart, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, said: “The CDDO has convened discussions with chief digital and information officers and chief technology officers from across government to identify key principles and guardrails for the mobile app strategy.

“The strategy will be finalised next year.” 

Burghart went on to reiterate that the Government Digital Service (GDS) is developing a GOV.UK App “that builds upon the success of the existing GOV.UK One Login identity checking app, which has been downloaded over 5.7 million times”.

A decade ago, GDS discouraged app development without Cabinet Office approval, prioritising web services over apps due to cost concerns.

In a recent interview with Global Government Forum, Christine Bellamy, director, GOV.UK, Government Digital Service, highlighted the importance of adapting to changing user needs and said this year there will be a focus on expanding GDS’s social media presence, building the app and developing the GOV.UK brand.

“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,” she said.

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

New Zealand’s public service cuts continue

More of New Zealand’s departments and agencies have proposed job cuts after the conservative coalition government, elected in October, asked agencies to make savings of between 6.5% and 7.5% as it attempts to reduce spending on public services by around NZ$1.5 billion (US$890 million). 

Under New Zealand law, proposed restructures or redundancies must be consulted on ahead of a final decision. Cuts have already been proposed in several departments including the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry for Culture.

On 17 April, it was reported that over 1,000 job cuts were proposed in just one day, including at the Ministry of Education and at Oranga Tamariki, the ministry for children. The Public Service Association called it “a black day”.

The Ministry of Education proposed cutting 565 full-time-equivalent roles, of which 235 are currently vacant. This represents 12% of the ministry’s workforce.

Oranga Tamariki’s proposed changes, if implemented, would lead to the abolition of 632 positions, of which 70 are vacant. The plan proposes 185 new positions, meaning a net reduction of 447 positions or 9% of the workforce.

Further cuts have since been proposed at agencies including the Customs Service, Department of Internal Affairs and Land Information,

Analysis suggests that over 3,360 roles have so far been – or are proposed to be – cut as part of the cost savings drive.

The National Party, which leads the government, campaigned on cutting “back-office expenditure” in public agencies, as part of its ‘Back Pocket Boost’ tax plan.

New Zealand’s Public Service Association has warned that the public sector cuts will have a long-term negative impact on the country.

Read more: New Zealand public service union hits back at planned cuts

India’s PM used AI to inform 25-year roadmap

Narendra Modi outlined how he used artificial intelligence (AI) during the process of developing a 25-year roadmap for the country.

Speaking to news agency ANI last week, India’s prime minister said he had gathered the input of over 1.5 million people and used AI to help classify it.

“I contacted all universities, different NGOs and organisations, and around 15 to 20 lakh [1.5 to 2 million] people gave their input,” he said, adding that “with the help of AI”, he then analysed it “subject-wise”.  

He said he created a dedicated team of officers in each department to work on how things could be done for the next 25 years.

General elections are being held in India from 19 April to 1 June 2024 and the results will be announced on 4 June.

On 14 April, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party published its election manifesto, pledging to create jobs, boost infrastructure and expand welfare programmes if it wins a third term.

On AI, the manifesto states: “We will develop a comprehensive ecosystem under the IndiaAI mission, driving AI innovation through collaborative strategic programmes and partnerships to position Bharat as a global leader in AI innovation and build domestic capacities to ensure tech sovereignty.”

It also pledges to use data analytics, artificial intelligence, drones and satellite imagery to “detect and dismantle drug trafficking networks effectively” as well as to deploy AI for traffic management.

Read more: Taming the tiger: national digital chiefs on the powers and perils of AI

Biden’s FEMA to hold extreme heat summits

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that starting this week, it will host virtual and in-person summits focused on understanding extreme heat impacts and defining actionable ways to combat and prepare for these increasing risks across the country.

The period from January to March 2024 ranked as the fifth-warmest start to a year in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 130-year climate record. NOAA predicts that above-normal temperatures are likely across the midwestern, western and southern lower 48 states this summer.

The virtual summit on 26 April will feature remarks from secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, as well as roundtable discussions examining federal, state and local initiatives to combat extreme heat risks.

Speakers will include representatives from the US Fire Administration, the National Park Service, Occupational Health and Safety, and the Department of Health & Human Services.

“Extreme heat is becoming a more aggressive threat to well-being across the country,” said Criswell. “We want to arm our emergency responders – and communities across America – with the health and safety information needed to stay healthy when the temperatures soar.”

“The time to be summer ready is now,” she added.

The in-person summit will take place in Chicago on 21 May. Open to government leaders and resilience-focused private sector, nonprofit and academic organisations, the event aims to foster discussion, networking and cross-collaboration between all levels of government and community partners.

Read more: US EPA awards $20bn for climate projects

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