Home » About the Data Challenge and entry criteria

The Data Challenge facing government

Government has huge data assets, but often fails to make best use of them. We’ve gathered the ideas of civil servants across the workforce on how to improve our data systems and tools, and are taking the best ideas forward in project teams of civil service volunteers.

Thank you for your ideas

We believe there’s huge potential to use data better in government, strengthening staff tools, saving taxpayers’ money and improving outcomes for citizens. And nobody knows how to address our weaknesses and realise our potential better than the civil servants who manage, maintain and use our current systems. So we’ve gathered your ideas for how government could make better use of data: we’ve formed teams around the best to find out whether they can be delivered.

Eight ideas were longlisted for further development, and at the Semi-Final four teams were selected to go forward to the Final.


Our teams

We’ve brought together civil servants’ of all departments, professions, roles and grades to form teams around the best ideas. Working with colleagues from across government – and with the support of senior leaders, key organisations and specialist professionals – they’re investigating the idea’s potential and viability. All the shortlisted teams will present their ideas to senior leaders across government, who will work with Civil Service Chief Operating Officer Alex Chisholm to give the winners the best possible chance of delivery.

The benefits

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How it works

The Data Challenge is a competition and staff development programme open to all civil servants. We have gathered ideas for improvements to government’s use of data, and have formed teams of volunteers around the best. At the end of the first stage of development, those teams will present their ideas to the judging panel. Two or more ideas will be selected to move onto the second stage, with the best selected by the sponsors at a finals event. We hope to put ideas on the road to delivery, with the support of senior leaders plus technical advice and support from NTT DATA to the value of £50,000.

The process

Stage 1 – Now Complete

Applicants put forward their ideas on how to use data more effectively. Ideas need not be well-developed or researched: just set out your concept in our simple form, and we’ll identify those with greatest potential and help you take them forward.

Stage 2 – Now Complete

We help applicants to form small teams to further develop their ideas, assessing viability and assessing the potential costs and benefits. This stage culminates in a shortlisting event, where your team presents its idea to the judging panel.

Stage 3

With guidance from senior civil service leaders and technical support from NTT DATA, shortlisted teams will develop and refine your data use cases. This stage closes with a finals event attended by the sponsors; the aim is to put winning ideas on the path to implementation.

Judging criteria

To what extent is the idea…

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Likely to improve the lives of public service users or the tools used by civil servants?

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Likely to generate a high return on investment, with the benefits for citizens, civil servants and taxpayers substantially greater than the costs?

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Deliverable, with likely obstacles assessed and addressed?

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Innovative and exemplary in its use of data and technology?

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Replicable and scalable, with potential applications across government?

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In line with the goals of civil service reform, departmental priorities and the Data Ethics Framework?


Monday 29 March 2021

Launch of programme

Friday 14 May 2021

Applications close and long list process begins

16 June 2021

Data Challenge session at CS Live

5 July 2021

Longlist of applications published

7 October 2021

Pitch event (the Semi Final)

9 December 2021

The Final