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Simon Dennis Director of Central Government, SAS UK

Working for SAS in the UK public sector is always interesting. This is due largely to the diversity of public sector activities and the innovative ways in which government agencies deploy analytics. Analytics can help reduce costs while protecting and improving delivery of the front-line services upon which we all, to one extent or another, depend.

For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has an amazing array of data that could unlock significant efficiencies in integrated care, as multiple health care departments collaborate with private sector partners. Analysing health data also promises to improve patient care and biosurveillance.

Analysing health data promisesto improve patient care and biosurveillance.

The 2021 census in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland provides another example, with an electronic census that offers decreased costs, reduced latency and an accurate evidence base for policy analysis.

Brexit is UK’s opportunity for a generation to reinvent, and – wherever possible – to shrug off the encumbrance of legacy processes and outdated bureaucracy.

As we get further down the Brexit runway, the UK will start to reinvent the way it operates apart from Brussels, and this will almost certainly have a spirit of devolution as well as digitalisation. It’s the opportunity of a generation to reinvent ourselves rather as the former Soviet-bloc nations did in the 1990s.

All of these efforts will require joint service delivery, a system view of population needs, and a clear understanding of government service delivery capabilities and capacities.

How can we help the machinery of government to maximise efficiency and effectiveness? Consider my 10 predictions for the year ahead and let me know if you agree:

  1. More analytics: Government agencies need to accelerate the shift from the dashboard reporting of lagging indicators to autonomous business processes, and embedded business intelligence and analytics capabilities that automate or help humans make better context-based decisions in real time.
  2. Omnichannel citizen engagement: Improving the citizen experience requires a holistic approach to the citizen:
  • Using joined-up data to understand the needs and desires of the citizen.
  • Leveraging all channels, including location-based communications and social media to actively engage citizens.
  • Enabling the population to engage “their way” for inbound communications.
  • Understanding citizens to make use of the most cost-effective channel, taking account of capacity, effectiveness and their preferred outbound engagement channels.
  • Seamless transition among channels with consistent omnichannel application of corporate knowledge and analytic decision support.
  • Satisfying demand via a new set of citizen interactions that continuously feed into a citizen-centric information pool across all silos of government
  1. Digital citizen ID: The need for this to be resolved across government is now paramount, from its necessity for frictionless borders through to transactional enforcement by Universal Credit Counter Fraud.
  2. Artificial intelligence-readiness (including GDPR compliance): For digital government to succeed, it needs citizens to embrace their digital initiatives, and this requires trust. For real AI or general AI to be deployed this is paramount. Government will need to demonstrate it is a trustable data guardian, and GDPR is a minimum standard. Perhaps it’s felt that the IT industry cried wolf a bit over the millennium bug, but I fear government organisations are sleepwalking into a disaster through false reassurances and the misinformation that abounds on this topic.
  3. Internet of Things: Whether for management of internal assets or the maintenance of building stock and national infrastructure or telemedicine to minimise in-patient work-days, the IoT is here. And once early underspecified security protocols are re-engineered, it will be pervasive. Departments should be considering their blockchain strategy and opportunities.
  4. Skills and training: The skills shortage across the economy as a whole will start to bite in 2018 and become critical in 2019-2022. Current practices of sharing someone from another department will not be acceptable as new technology proliferates.
  5. Software-defined architectures: By adding a layer of software to abstract and virtualise the applications deployed in delivery of services, government will improve the manageability and agility of the code. This will make it a more holistic organisation that can respond to the fluidity requirements of digital government and the IoT. This will become a key enabler of secure cross-departmental service delivery.
  6. A new security paradigm: The level of cyber hostility is forever increasing, and an ever-more robust risk-based approach will be required. As digital government becomes more reliant on the platforms and applications used, then the more damaging and hence more likely an attack against them will become.
  7. Open data and open standards: Enough said!
  8. Partnerships: Partnerships are vital for the pace and scale of change to be executed effectively. With a few exceptions government will need to pick some technology partners and work closely to deliver configured COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) capabilities to get the benefits that digital government promises. This will put the UK in the best possible position as Brexit changes the way we work and AI becomes a reality.