Defra confirms focus on technology

The environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, has said that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will continue to embrace the technological revolution through increased investment.

Speaking about departmental reforms at the Institute for Government, Truss spoke openly about the need for a continuing focus on open data and the benefits of combining its IT functions with other agencies to drive efficiencies.

“The technology revolution means that people today expect responsiveness and seamlessness, they want services shaped around their needs not around organisational convenience,” Truss said. “The days of traditional government departments saying “take it or leave it” are over.

“A new Environment Analysis Unit will pull together data, stats and economics from across our organisation meaning that flood alleviation, flora and fauna, farming, water soil and air will be considered together; not as isolated issues.”


Open data

The minister confirmed that, by June, Defra is on target to release 8,000 datasets promised last summer.

“I think it’s an immense achievement of our department that one third of all of the government’s open data will be Defra’s – we don’t have one third of the government budget, but we’ve got one third of all the data out there.

“This is a major resource that entrepreneurs already use to design new tools, from websites for people to check their local river levels to software for the latest precision farming techniques.”


Increased investment

Truss added that, as a department, Defra is increasing its capital investment by 12 per cent over the course of this parliament. “This means that as well as increasing our spending on flood defences, we can raise our investment in IT, science and facilities by 30%. This new technology will help us to assess risk more precisely and to automate more monitoring and inspection, enabling us to reduce our running costs by 15 percent,” she added.

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