Biometrics, AI and Brexit among GDS priorities for year ahead

A year on from the publication of the Government Transformation Strategy, Kevin Cunnington, Director General of the Government Digital Service (GDS) has outlined the department’s priorities for the next 12 months.

Writing in a blog post, Cunnington says work completed by the GDS is already having a demonstrable effect in helping government work better. Notable achievements from the past year have been detailed in the post.


Innovators for government

Looking forward, Cunnington says the GDS is, “working with departments to support existing and upcoming programmes, including using biometrics and artificial intelligence on services. And we’re working to make sure the things we build and run – including GOV.UK – can use innovative technologies like machine learning and voice control.

“We are also responsible for the GovTech Catalyst programme, a £20m fund to help tech firms deliver innovative fixes to public sector challenges.

“Our team will help government departments and public bodies identify challenges they face that could be solved by new digital technologies. We will then act as a ‘front door’ to tech firms, giving them a clear access point where they can put forward their innovative ideas. Once a finalised product is created, the public sector body can then choose to buy it from the tech company.”


Building capability

Cunnington goes on to say that, so far, more than 7,500 civil servants have gained digital skills and capability by taking courses at the GDS Academy.

“We run the GDS Academy across the country – in Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle – and we’re looking to expand it. We’re also developing new training at the GDS Academy. We’re looking at subjects including artificial intelligence, geospatial and distributed ledgers. We’ll make these available to all departments.

“To give us an overview of digital capability across government, we’ve launched the first national framework of Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) job roles. This has created a structure of 37 common job roles across government.”

The GDS is also developing a workforce plan for the DDaT Profession, which will give it full data and a full picture of what the profession looks like across government. It will provide information on things like different roles, pay, gender and diversity, helping to spot, for example, where there’s a need for more emerging talent, if there are diversity issues or if there are gender pay disparities.



As with most central government departments, another focus for the next 12 months at the GDS is Brexit.

“This is the biggest challenge government faces at the moment and GDS is supporting all departments to meet this challenge,” says Cunnington.

“The use of shared platforms will enable new systems to be delivered efficiently and quickly to meet common needs across EU Exit work.

“And, because of our work to develop the DDaT jobs framework across government, we are able to understand what resource is needed and to make sure departments have it. We are supporting government to hire and redeploy talent. We are also upskilling the Civil Service through the GDS Academy. We are working to make sure we have the right skills and capability in all departments.”

The Government Transformation Strategy 2017 to 2020 can be read in full here.

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