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Building the Smarter State

Key highlights from techUK’s flagship public services conference.

Over 200 leaders across the public sector and tech industry attended techUK’s flagship public services conference, Building the Smarter State, last week to hear the government's vision for transformation and learn how peers are re-imagining public services through technology.  

It was a packed agenda looking at the key issues creating the conditions for successful end-to-end transformation – from digital skills to managing change to making it easy for SMEs to work with government. We were delighted to welcome Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Minister for Implementation as the opening keynote. At the conference the Minister revealed the second round of GovTech Catalyst challenges - the £20 million fund set up to help private sector innovators tackle public sector problems. The five new challenges include: 

  1. How might we improve firefighter safety and operational response? 
  2. How might we make better use of data to guide public sector audits?  
  3. How might we automatically detect and identify illicit goods during the journey across the border without impacting fluidity of trade?  
  4. How might we understand the overlaps between business regulations?  
  5. How might we guarantee prescription continuity while people move between care providers?  

It was a keynote full of exciting announcements. The Minister committing innovation as a priority, which will be realised in an ambitious Innovation Strategy. He said “The strategy will share our vision of how government can use emerging technologies to deliver world class public services. It will encourage collaboration between the public and private sector and identify areas where investment can increase the pace of innovation.” 

After hearing the government’s vision we heard from a number of digital leaders across Whitehall departments and local government who shared their experiences of managing complex change and driving a culture of innovation. 

A reoccurring theme throughout the panels was that technology has an enabling role to do things differently. However, we should not start with the technology but with outlining the problem first and then looking to the tech solution. For the emerging technologies to succeed there needs to be in place the culture and leadership that recognises that digital doesn’t just sit with IT, but with everyone. This powerfully articulated by Nicola Graham, Head of IT at Aberdeenshire Council when sharing her councils digital journey. This is a sentiment championed by techUK and something highlighted in our recent paper, ‘Council of the Future: A Digital Guide’ for Councillors’ which encourages Councillors to adopt a digital-first mindset. 

Alongside our conference, last week we also held our Building the Smarter State campaign which include a series of guest blogs from stakeholders and industry on the building blocks to the Smarter State. You can catch-up on all the content here and continue the conversation by sharing your views at @techUK #techUKSmarterStat


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