As the UK emerged from the winter wave of Covid-19 and slowly began to open up from lockdown, the UK public sector increasingly turned to technology to reshape its relationship with citizens and how the services are provided.
The UK government has announced a series of strategies and investments throughout 2021 to boost digital adoption and support the tech sector – from artificial intelligence to tech startups – while struggling to manage its own legacy IT infrastructure , which has proven to be a major obstacle during the pandemic.
In the future, technology will play a vital role in implementing key government policies, from securing borders to education, security and digital identity. Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 stories about the UK government and public sector in 2021:
1. Interview: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on supporting Britain’s tech sector
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is spearheading a Treasury initiative to reach out to leaders in Britain’s tech sector, such as CEOs, investors and startups, to better understand what the industry expects government in the post-Brexit world of “Global Britain”. ”.
On September 14, Sunak hosted a new event, Treasury Connect, to meet technology leaders and discuss their needs. Computer Weekly was invited to ask Sunak questions in a “fireside chat” to open the event.
It’s been 10 years since the Government Digital Service (GDS) was established, in the early days of Cameron, Clegg and the Coalition. Hailed as the buoyant young upstarts who would transform the sleepy, ossified departments of Whitehall, some would say the GDS has since become just another piece of the same old establishment bureaucracy it was meant to disrupt.
A month before a critical July 2019 report by MPs, GDS chief executive Kevin Cunnington has announced that he is stepping down. The team was then led by two different interim leaders until in February 2021 a permanent leader was finally appointed. Tom Read, previously Director of Digital and Information at the Department of Justice, has taken on the new title of Director General of GDS.
3. Technology at the center of UK government reform
The United Kingdom has launched a government reform program aimed at accelerating the recovery following the emergence of Covid-19, with one of the key pillars related to improving performance through better use of technology.
Announced on June 15, the plan aims to “rebalance the government away from Whitehall, open up the civil service to new skills, talents and ideas, and embrace digital technology and data-driven decision-making” to address the weaknesses revealed. during the pandemic across public sector domains and build on its strengths.
4. The UK’s struggle with digital education
Monday January 4, 2021, the children resumed their first week of school after the Christmas holidays. That evening the government announced the closure of schools in England, as well as a nationwide lockdown, and the situation in Wales and Scotland was similar.
For most, it came as a complete surprise, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that schools were safe enough to stay open. For many, it also highlights the magnitude of the UK’s digital divide.
Having to use digital devices and services to teach children at home ranged from inconvenient to impossible, depending on the capabilities of each household.
5. The UK government launches the first national artificial intelligence strategy
The UK government has launched a 10-year artificial intelligence (AI) plan to position the country as “the best place to live and work with AI” through a set of rules and governance, applied ethics and a regulatory framework conducive to innovation.
Launched on September 22 by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the strategy is expected to boost business adoption of AI technologies, strengthen the national AI skills base and attract new talent. international investments in space – the UK currently ranks third in global venture capital investment in AI, and is the base for a third of all European AI companies.
6. The Cabinet Office has come under fire after advising users to ditch UKCloud as a new investment nears
The Cabinet Office has come under fire after advising public sector users of a UK specialist cloud provider to find other providers, over fears of the company’s financial security.
Computer Weekly has seen evidence that at least one major government department has told providers whose software is hosted by UKCloud that they should switch to another hosting provider.
Several independent sources told Computer Weekly the edict came from the Cabinet Office, which warned that all public sector customers of UKCloud – an SME specializing in public sector cloud – should seek alternative providers.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) has secured up to £400m requested in the latest spending review to develop a new digital identity system over the next three years.
the The autumn budget documents said only that the Cabinet Office had received “funding to advance the development of ‘One Login’, a new system allowing users to access government services – from paying taxes to registering of births – via a single portal”, but did not include all the figures on the amount that was to be allocated.
However, Computer Weekly understands that, although final details have yet to be agreed, HM Treasury has agreed a budget of around £400m for the One Login project, which is expected to become the authentication system. single common used across the world. Gov.uk website. Computer Weekly first revealed in September that GDS had estimated One Login to cost between £300m and £400m.
8. The UK will have a digital border by the end of 2025
The Home Office has launched a program to create a digital border as part of its immigration reform plans.
The government New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control explains how it aims to achieve an “end-to-end fully digital experience” in all aspects of immigration and border crossings.
9. DWP Completes Internal VME Replacement Project
The huge project, believed to be the largest of its kind in Europe, saw the department develop and deploy an in-house replacement for the VME, replacing 11 key delivery systems which pay out over £150bn a year to citizens, without any break time. .
DWP’s former mainframe VME services had been fully managed by Fujitsu since the system was first installed in 1974, and most of the department’s critical IT systems, including benefit systems, were still running on the proprietary operating system, developed originally by ICL before its launch. acquired by Fujitsu.
10. Bill of Parliament to establish the UK Agency for Advanced Research and Invention
A new bill has been introduced in Parliament to create the UK’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), an agency that will have the powers and freedoms to fund and develop scientific research at pace.
Announced in February 2021, ARIA has a model based on the US Agency for Advanced Research Projects (ARPA) and its successor, Darpa. The new agency is backed by £800m in funding and will support high-risk research that offers the possibility of high rewards in terms of transformational impact on society.