The UK’s Government Digital Service, the Cabinet Office division charged with transforming Whitehall to provide data-driven citizen services, is launching a new initiative designed to boost its services through the appliance of data science.
Dubbed Gov.UK Data Labs, as the name suggests, the division is solely focused on the Gov.UK online hub and aims to make better use of anonymised data and data science, to improve users’ experience of government by optimising content, journeys or services as a whole.
In addition, the division will try to ensure that teams across government keep users at the heart of their plans by delivering relevant access to anonymised performance data; explore the idea of consent-based personalised experiences on Gov.UK; and "democratise" data insights and improve data literacy.
At present, GDS uses quantitative and qualitative data to understand aspects such as user volumes and page interactions, as well as testing and feedback analysis.
More recently, the team has been focusing on enhancing user experience as people rely more on online services, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the GDS, Gov.UK has received 1,000 daily comments on average through citizen enquiries about Government services during the crisis, on topics from furlough schemes to food deliveries during lockdown.
In a blog post, Gov.UK Data Labs senior product manager Ganesh Senthi and senior data scientist Matt Gregory, said the data function is working to ramp up use of anonymised data to improve user journeys.
The idea is to use external data sources such as Google Trends, or data from other government departments and public bodies, which will be encouraged to deliver access to anonymised performance data on digital services.
The move to deliver more personalised services to citizens follows controversy sparked in October 2019, when Government officials insisted there was “nothing sinister” in plans to gather user information through the Gov.uk website.