Oliver Dowden - the latest Minister within the Cabinet Office to take responsibility for digital and procurement (officially given the title of Minister for Implementation) - this week spoke about the role the private sector can play in helping the public sector deliver innovation and better citizen experiences.
Speaking at the Government ICT Conference, Dowden also unveiled the latest five challenges to be accepted as part of the GovTech Catalyst programme.
The programme allows public sector organisations to submit challenges that they need help solving, for which then the private sector can win funding to support and get involved in government work. Winning firms will get up to £50,000 to build prototypes.
Dowden appears keen to explore new opportunities for the private sector to work in collaboration with the public sector. He said:
“It is crucial...that we do all we can to deliver an excellent service to citizens. I believe that we do this by exploring new technologies and sensibly implementing them, by supporting those who undertake this work and by encouraging the partnerships between the private and public sectors. And it’s this last component, I believe, which is the accelerant.
“A strong tradition of public and private sector collaboration is part of the reason why the UK is a world leader in digital government.
I firmly believe that in order to serve people efficiently, we need to partner with, and learn from our private sector. There is some incredible work being done - British companies working in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain have seen record levels of funding in 2018 and more investment than other European hubs. While the UK continues to attract more venture capital investment and tech IPOs than any other European hub in 2018, investment was down on 2017. That’s why I’m doing all I can to champion the UK’s govtech sector and our SMEs.”
The GovTech Catalyst
As part of his speech, Dowden took the opportunity to announce the third round of GovTech Catalyst challenges, which form part of a £20 million fund set up to help private sector companies tackle public sector problems.
The latest five challenges - which allow companies to win up to £50,000 to prototype to solve the problems - include:
- Oxfordshire County Council looking to investigate how it can manage autonomous vehicles in local traffic management control systems.
- Leeds City Council wants to investigate how sensors can be used to monitor the condition of social housing, using data to intervene and help vulnerable residents.
- The Scottish National Heritage wants a digital tool to clarify the planning permission system.
- Torfaen County Council in Wales wants to understand how it can use data to better predict, sequence and modernise its social care offering.
- Waltham Forest Council wants to use data to tackle housing issues in the capital using geospatial intelligence.
Commenting on the latest five challenges, Dowden said:
“The GovTech Catalyst is part of the push to bring innovation in government - but it has to be innovation that is appropriate, viable and strategic.
“The GovTech Catalyst fund encourages private sector companies to help solve public sector problems. Through the programme, public sector organisations are able to submit challenges. Successful challenges will become competitions that are open to private sector innovators to solve.
“It really does allow the public sector to trial innovative technology in a quick and cost-effective way, with a view to it being deployed at scale.
“The private sector is given a new route to work with government, government benefits from that expertise, and the public, who we are ultimately all here to serve, feels the benefit.”