Civil Service Data Challenge launches – seeks entrepreneurial ideas from within central government to transform public services and improve policy | NTT DATA

Mon, 29 March 2021

Civil Service Data Challenge launches – seeks entrepreneurial ideas from within central government to transform public services and improve policy

The Dragons’ Den-style competition, featuring former BBC show winner Henry de Zoete, will find innovative ways to make better use of data within central government – putting the best ideas on the road to delivery

A partnership of Civil Service and business organisations today announced the launch of the Civil Service Data Challenge, inviting Civil Servants to send in their ideas on how government can improve its use of data. Teams of Civil Service volunteers will develop the most promising of these ideas, pitching them to the judges at semi-final and final events – after which the best will receive both technical advice and development support from partner NTT DATA UK, and the backing of top Civil Servants.

The judges include Cabinet Office non-executive board member Henry de Zoete, an entrepreneur who in 2018 won Dragon’s Den with his partner Will Hodson – securing the best cash-to-equity deal in the show’s history for their business, Look After My Bills. Alongside de Zoete, the final will be judged by Alex Chisholm, the Civil Service’s Chief Operating Officer and Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office; 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’ ideas for how government could make better use of data – finding new ways to boost efficiency, improve public services and strengthen 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.

Alex Chisholm commented: “Civil servants across the workforce will have ideas for how we could improve our use of data, strengthening staff tools and benefiting citizens. We want to tap into the expertise and creativity 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 are those which 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.”

Civil Servants have until 14 May 2021 to put forward their ideas or volunteer to join a team. Following a longlisting process, the eight most promising ideas will be taken forward by these teams, which will test their viability, assess the potential benefits and scope the obstacles to delivery. At events in September and December, the judging panels will pick the best for further development – providing both the support of the programme’s 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.

Julia Lopez MP commented: “Since arriving at the Cabinet Office last year, I’ve found Civil Servants 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, commented: “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 will lead to real improvements in staff tools and public services – but just as important are the benefits for participating civil servants, who’ll gain new skills, experiences and contacts. So please send in your ideas and volunteer to get involved, helping us to make better use of data in government.”

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


About the partners

NTT DATA UK NTT DATA UK is a leading IT services provider and trusted global innovator, headquartered in Tokyo, with business operations in over 50 countries. Our emphasis is on long-term commitment combining global reach with local intimacy to provide premier professional services varying from consulting and systems development to outsourcing.  

Cabinet Office The Cabinet Office supports the Prime Minister and ensure the effective running of government. It is also the corporate headquarters for government, in partnership with HM Treasury, and it takes the lead in certain critical policy areas. For more information, visit

Government Digital Service The Government Digital Service helps government work better for everyone by leading digital transformation. Visit,

Global Government Forum Global Government Forum is a publishing, events and research business that helps senior civil servants around the world to meet global challenges by building their expertise, knowledge and connections. For more information,

Office for National Statistics (ONS) ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and its recognised national statistical institute. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. It also conducts the census in England and Wales every 10 years. To find out more, visit

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