ONS seeks £8m partner to help increase use of digital surveys

Statistics agency looks to build on the rollout of the UK’s first-ever digital census last year 

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The Office for National Statistics is seeking a commercial partner to help fulfil a multimillion-pound programme of work to increase its ability to deliver surveys digitally.

Last year marked the first time that the ONS’s decennial census of citizens throughout England and Wales was conducted primarily online. The statistics agency now wishes to make build on this by making further improvements to “its survey data-collection service [and] enhance digital products for collection and ingestion of surveys”.

“There are surveys that are not currently delivered online and are missing the benefits that digital surveys realise,” the ONS said, in newly published procurement documents. “Additionally, some online surveys require technical skills to build and simplifying our survey estate and improving our processing and production of statistics will reduce operational costs.”

Work on improving its ability to administer surveys digitally will begin with discovery exercises to better understand the needs of those taking surveys and ONS staff overseeing the research. This will then progress to alpha phases in which the statistics body will work with its chosen commercial partner to “try out different solutions, build prototypes, prioritise and test different ideas and decide which of the ideas tested to take forward to beta”.

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The overall aim of the digitisation work – which will include the replacement of incumbent legacy systems – is to make surveys simpler and quicker for respondents. Statisticians, meanwhile, should benefit from “improved insights from data, track performance and progress of the ONS’s digital surveys, as well as improved data flows across the end-to-end statistical process”.

The agency is seeking to appoint a “delivery capability partner” to a two-year contract covering the discovery and aalpha phases and worth up to £4m a year. There is no commitment to a minimum spend level though, with the value of the deal to be determined by the money spent of individual statements of work to be issued by the ONS over the course of the engagement. Bids for the contract are open until midnight on 9 November, with work due to begin at the start of next year.

The contract notice said: “Due to the variety of digital services and technologies a flexible approach is required to allow statements of work to be appropriate for any given project and we envisage that capability will be supplied within two weeks of request to deliver digital outcomes, so that we can: quickly flex delivery capacity up and down to meet the scale of change for each activity, getting the right skills for the right duration; bridge existing gaps in capability [and] capacity with the right experienced resource; [and] ensure that quality industry digital and data thinking is embedded within the ONS.”

The chosen supplier is expected to supply the ONS with a range of digital and data professionals, covering various researcher, analyst, designer, engineer, and architect roles. Work will be led from ONS headquarters in Newport and, although much of the support being procured can be delivered remotely, all staff provided for the project must be based in the UK. 


Sam Trendall

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