Downing Street data-science squad working on tracking programme success and delivering ‘lightweight data-sharing tools’

Cabinet Office minister Alex Bughart has lifted the lid on some of the work being undertaken by the specialist data team created at the top of government three years ago

The data-science unit set up in Downing Street three years ago is working to deliver specialist training to the civil service, deliver new data-sharing tools, and measure the efficacy of major projects according to a minister.

The 10DS team – a reference to both data science and the prime minister’s address – was created in summer 2020 and was widely reported to be the brainchild of Dominic Cummings.

The unit has now long outlived the former Downing Street special adviser and, according to Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart, the team is overseeing a reform initiative focused on issues including skills-building and technical tools to support the use of data.

He said: “The team… runs a transformation programme including: (1) project rAPId, a free, open source, lightweight data sharing system; (2) the No10 Innovation Fellowships, bringing industry expertise in AI into central government on year-long secondments to improve public services; (3) Evidence House, a program to upskill civil servants in data science, AI and software engineering; and crowdsource technical solutions to wicked problems; and (4) creating and managing the new Incubator for Artificial Intelligence, a 30-strong team of AI experts who are working on rapid delivery of AI projects in line with the prime minister’s priorities.”

The minister, who had been asked about the work of the unit by fellow Tory MP Neil O’Brien, added that other objectives of the team are to help assess the success of major government projects and inform decision-making.

“The No10 Data Science Team has a remit to improve the way in which key decisions are informed by data, analysis, and evidence using cutting-edge data science techniques. This enables the government to use the best available evidence, throughout the policy and decision-making process, to drive long-term systems change and enable staff to collectively solve the most pressing policy challenges. They also use data to track delivery of government priority programs, working closely with Delivery Unit.”

Sam Trendall

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