Tell us how to make better use of data

Now in its second year, the Civil Service Data Challenge is an organisational improvement and staff development initiative run by the Cabinet Office, Global Government Forum, NTT DATA and the Office for National Statistics.

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Grid of partners logos

Why enter?

You could see your idea put into action: the Challenge identifies and delivers helpful changes that can aid the work of public servants and improve public services. But we also seek to boost the career development of civil servants, and you don’t need to submit an idea in order to take part: joining an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental team, you’ll develop your skills in project management, business planning, digital technologies and partnership working, then showcase your work to panels of top leaders.

The most promising ideas will win the backing of senior Civil Service leaders, along with technical assistance to move them towards implementation. We seek ideas from across the workforce: those shortlisted in the 2021 Civil Service Data Challenge were submitted by civil servants from a wide range of grades, professions and organisations. 

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Alex Chisholm photo

“I am delighted to be sponsoring the Data Challenge in its second year, having seen the extraordinary response we got from teams across the Civil Service last year.

“The enthusiasm and skill of the competing teams was equalled by the quality and ingenuity of their proposals. Last year’s finalists are already driving real world improvements in public services.”

Alex Chisholm

Chief Operating Officer, Civil Service, and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

The winning team, with judges

Find out more

Read our news report on December’s Final

Read our article on how the Data Challenge turned one civil servant’s “vague possibility” into a live project

Watch the finalists giving their presentations and answering the judges’ questions in the 30-minute videos below

The 2021 Winner

Deploy AI to protect and enhance our peatlands

At the 2021 programme Final on 9 December 2021, four teams presented their ideas to the Final Decision Panel – who picked as the overall winner a plan to train AI systems to identify peatlands drainage channels, supporting work to restore these sensitive environments. Panel chair Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office permanent secretary and Civil Service chief operating officer, called the scheme “outstandingly innovative” and noted its potential to reduce CO2 emissions, cut public spending, reduce flood risk and generate intellectual property.

However, Chisholm was clear that all eight of the semi-finalists’ ideas would be taken forward. “Every single one of those proposals we absolutely loved,” he said. “We want all of them to go forward; every one of the shortlisted ones… we are absolutely determined that they should happen.”

Deploy AI to protect and enhance our peatlands

Track prisoners’ contacts to support rehabilitation​

Construction industry benefit fraud and error

Gather better statistics on UK citizens abroad


Vicki Chauhan

“The Civil Service Data Challenge is a fantastic way for central government to rethink the way it uses data, by giving civil servants a chance to present these ideas directly to senior leadership. By prioritising data and putting it at the heart of everything it does, the government is putting itself in a strong position to excel in the years to come.”

Vicki Chauhan

Head of Public Sector, NTT DATA UK

Stephen Barclay

“Using data to modernise public services is a top priority. This innovative project shows the civil service at its best and I’m excited to hear about how it drives CO2 reductions.”

Steve Barclay

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, on the 2021 winner

Julia Lopez photo

“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.”

Julia Lopez MP

Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Photo montage of our judges

Our sponsors and judges

The 2022 Civil Service Data Challenge is sponsored by very senior figures, giving the project reach and influence across government. The judges, who include top data specialists from the Civil Service and NTT DATA, will select first the eight ideas to develop within the programme, and then the four that will go forward to the Final. 


Timeline: 2022 programme

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Launch of applications

Friday 21 July 2022

Applications close and long list process begins

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Longlist of applications published

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Pitch event (the Semi Final)

Thursday 23 March 2023

The Final

Before you apply

It's easy to submit an idea; no research is required, and the form asks only for an outline concept. Whether you have an idea or want to join a team, you’ll need your line manager’s agreement: please show them our Information for line managers page, where our sponsor, Civil Service Chief Operating Officer Alex Chisholm, explains the benefits of participating and asks them to approve requests.

We hope that all those whose ideas are selected for development will join a team to develop their ideas. We ask line managers to give staff the flexibility to join meetings and commit some of your working hours to the project. 

Submit idea