Cabinet Office minister: ‘I want to rebuild the system to unlock transformation’

Speaking at the techUK Building the Smarter State event in London today, Jeremy Quin told attendees that government will deliver widespread reform to support the use of digital and data

Image credit: UK Parliament/CC BY 3.0

Government transformation plans must focus not just on digital technology and data, but on wider systemic reform, according to Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin.

Delivering the opening keynote at the techUK Building the Smarter State conference in central London today, Quin (pictured above) told an audience comprised of representatives of public bodies and tech firms that he wanted to ensure that the two sectors worked together to best effect. But the minister said that government’s processes and infrastructure did not always make it easy to do so.

 “Let me be clear: too many of our practices – from how programmes are funded, to how IT systems are procured – need reform,” he added. “I want us to rebuild the system to unlock transformation.”

Citing the Home Office and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Quin claimed that some Whitehall agencies are already finding new and better ways to work with commercial partners – including contracts containing provisions that enable government to benefit from technological developments and develop new skills training during the lifespan of an engagement.

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Quin also said that, to best promote collaborative working on technology programmes and policy, all departments are now asked to ensure that at least one non-executive board member has experience of working in the digital sector. He also pointed to a recently launched initiative to enable employees of tech giants to join the civil service on secondment.

Government is also working to ensure it can make the most of artificial intelligence technology, including centrally set guidance for its use by departments, and the creation of an “an AI incubator for innovation, which will focus on innovation and culture”.

“AI will represent nothing less than a total shift in every part of our lives, leading to improvements as yet undreamed of, and it is vital that the public sector grasps this opportunity,” Quin added.

The minister stressed the importance of government’s own technology profession – with the Central Digital and Data Office and the Government Digital Service at its centre – and its work delivering the three-year strategy set out last year. This included a commitment to ensure that two-thirds of government’s 75 most critical services have achieved a defined ‘great’ standard by 2025.

Providing excellent online public services is critical to the overall success of the UK Quin told attendees.

“People’s experience of government digital feeds into their wider sense of how the country is working,” he said.

Sam Trendall

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