Six month update of the cross governmental digital and data strategy for 2022 – 2025

Published: 6 March 2023

Reading time: About 4 minutes

Automated Intelligence’s CSO, Paul Hudson comments on the six month update of the cross governmental digital and data strategy for 2022 – 2025, outlining the achievements progressed to date as well as the challenges encountered with the digital heap and how Automated Intelligence can help.

It’s great to see the progress highlighted in this six-month update following the launch of the cross-governmental digital and data strategy for 2022-2025. Certainly, we have experienced a change in pace and approach in our conversations that inspires a sense of confidence that solid progress is being made. We are talking to people both in new roles, and existing people who have different focus and agenda that is refreshing.

At Automated Intelligence, we have a focus on the digital heap within government departments, the unstructured data that has been gathering for decades. No government department is free from the scourge of legacy data. The reasons and evidence are well documented.

The problem was called out clearly in the government’s 2017 “Better Information for Better Government” which was in response to Sir Alex Allan’s Review of Government Digital Records. It seems a long time ago, but the problem hasn’t been resolved.

Top of the list of recommendations was that “all government departments should evaluate the level of risk they face from legacy digital information collections and take appropriate action.” For most, this is still an outstanding action on the to do list.

And move forward to 2022, in “The Digital, Data & Technology Playbook” where Alex Chisholm calls out the plan to “avoid and remediate legacy IT and tackle our technical debt”.

The digital heap exists, it contains significant risks that haven’t been evaluated or actioned in many departments. It is languishing on legacy platforms, it is embroiled in the legacy IT and technical debt, and as the playbook explains “this is a burden on the public and has a significant impact on cyber and national security, the operational resilience of critical systems, and value for money.”

It has been easier to ignore than address for a long time, simply because it has been too challenging, and pushed to the bottom of priorities. We are now hearing there is a greater focus, that there is a recognition that this has to happen, and as with everything, prioritisation and spend is stretched.

In some departments a drive to use internal skills to build solutions to tackle the challenges has emerged. This must always be an approach for consideration, it is a core theme within the strategy, however, we know it can lead to a false dawn, and a focus on legacy problems that distract from innovation needed within the Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) functions moving forward.

6 Month Update on the UK Government's Digital and Data Strategy

What is the solution?

To figure the solution out, it is not simply a matter of understanding the technology options available now and building a toolkit. At Automated Intelligence, we know the problems that will be encountered when you look back into the abyss of the digital heap. We can simply create structure from the unstructured at speed and scale, enabling powerful search, thereby opening up the opportunities to work smarter, as evidenced by the approach used by The Cabinet Office.

Our highly skilled Engineering and Consultants have spent many hours over the past decade figuring out solutions to so many gotchas. They are not just highly skilled in technology, they have deep insight into all the vagaries of past approaches to creating, collaborating, securing and storing information. And still, we always meet with new surprises. Every digital heap is the proverbial can of worms, and it is amazing how frightening those worms can be.

So yes, it is great to see the strengthening of skills and growth in the DDaT profession, the improvement of cross-functional teams across DDaT, policy and operations, the emergence of a prototype cross-government data catalogue, the growth of APIs, the development of data maturity assessment and the rolling out of a Microsoft 365 blueprint, critical for interoperability and collaboration.

So much is happening, but don’t fall into the trap of bundling a quick and dirty solution that will drain focus, money and time when there are products out there ready to spin up and make light work of the past. The growth and retention of DDaT professionals is a critical component of this strategy, and developing a culture of innovation and future-proofed skills reduces the risk of opportunity loss. Avoid cobbling together legacy style solutions using SQL databases for indexing millions of files. Work smarter and future proof investment in your DDaT professionals.

For further information on how Automated Intelligence can help your organisation with its digital heap and data and digital strategy, contact us on