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Launch of the Civil Service Data Challenge - we want your ideas

Civil Service Data Challenge

Drumroll, folks! The Civil Service Data Challenge seeks bright ideas from civil servants to transform public services and improve policy. So if you’re a data whizz with entrepreneurial dreams, it’s time to prove your prowess.

The Civil Service Data Challenge is launching a Dragons’ Den-style competition, featuring one of the show’s most successful entrepreneurs Henry de Zoete. It’s mission is to find innovative ways to make better use of data within the Civil Service – putting the best ideas on the road to delivery.

The Civil Service teamed up with business organisations to launch the Civil Service Data Challenge. inviting you to send in your ideas on how government can improve its use of data. 

How it works

Teams of Civil Service volunteers will develop the most promising ideas, pitching them to the judges at the Semi-final and Final – after which the best entries will receive both technical advice and development support from partner NTT DATA UK, plus the backing of top civil servants.

Meet the Judges….

Cabinet Office non-executive board member Henry de Zoete, won Dragon’s Den in 2018 with partner Will Hodson – securing the best cash-to-equity deal in the show’s history for their business, Look After My Bills. 

Henry de Zoete is one of the judges of the Civil Service Data Challenge
Henry de Zoete is one of the judges of the Civil Service Data Challenge

Alongside de Zoete, the final will be judged by Alex Chisholm, the Civil Service’s Chief Operating Officer and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary; Julia Lopez MP, Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office; and Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK. 

The programme aims to draw on Civil Servants’ brainwaves for how government can really use data – finding new ways to boost efficiency, boosting public services and strengthening policymaking. And it has heavyweight backing across government: as well as the Cabinet Office and NTT DATA UK, the partnership involves the Office of National Statistics, the Government Digital Service, and specialist publishers Global Government Forum. 

Other judges include some of the most senior data leaders in government, while the programme is sponsored by the heads of the Policy and Operational Delivery professions: Defra Permanent Secretary Tamara Finkelstein and DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield respectively.

Head and shoulders of Alex Chisholm
Alex Chisholm, Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary

Alex Chisholm said: “Civil servants across the workforce will have bright ideas for how we could improve our use of data, strengthening staff tools and benefiting citizens. We want to tap into the expertise and ingenuity of staff in every role, grade, profession and organisation.”

To serve elected leaders and the public, the Civil Service must make better use of its enormous data assets – building policies around people’s needs, cutting costs, and creating personalised, accessible public services. We know that the most innovative organisations draw on the skills, enthusiasm and commitment of staff across the workforce, listening to employees and acting on their ideas. The Civil Service Data Challenge is an important element of our work to build a more responsive, innovative and effective Civil Service.”

How to enter

Civil Servants have until 14 May 2021 to put forward your ideas or volunteer to join a team. Following a long-listing process, the eight most promising ideas will be taken forward by the teams, which will test the viability, assess the potential benefits and scope the obstacles to delivery. 

At events in September and December, the judging panels will select the best for further development – providing both the support from the judges, partners and sponsors, and expert advice and assistance to the value of £50,000 from NTT DATA UK. The company’s participation also ensures that the programme can be delivered at no cost to the public purse.

Cabinet Office, Julia Lopez, MP

Julia Lopez MP said: “Since arriving at the Cabinet Office last year, I’ve found Civil Servants to be full of ideas on how to realise the government’s objectives. Now we want to apply that inventiveness and expertise to one of the most fundamental challenges facing the Civil Service: that of realising the potential of our huge data assets.”

Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK, added: “The Civil Service Data Challenge is a fantastic platform for civil servants to pitch their data ideas to a panel of senior leaders from across the Civil Service and industry. Putting data at the heart of everything the government does will help improve policy and decision making, and ultimately drive improvements to citizen services.”

Urging Civil Servants to take part, Alex Chisholm said: “We hope the ideas generated through the Civil Service Data Challenge lead to real improvements in staff tools and public services. but just as important, are the multiple benefits for participating civil servants, who’ll gain new skills, experiences and contacts. So please send in your ideas and volunteer to get involved and help us make better use of data in government.”

Civil Servants have until 14 May 2021 to put forward your ideas or volunteer to join a team via the dedicated website,

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