Civil Service Live 2013 – envisioning the future of government

This year’s theme for Civil Service Live (CSL) was ‘Be Exceptional’ – a rallying cry to those working within the Civil Service to take pride in what they do, excel, and to embrace new digital tools filling their working lives to push standards even higher.

On 2nd and 3rd of July, the Microsoft Public Sector team was at Civil Service Live 2013 in London with a whole host of partners and solutions to demonstrate both IT innovation, but also the practical aspects of incorporating it into the business of government, in a way that meets goals around commoditisation, competition, and increased use of SMEs.

This year’s theme was ‘Be Exceptional’ with the intent of cross-government collaboration, sharing ideas, and developing skills and capabilities to inspire your work, whatever your role.

Our presence at was centred on two main ‘hubs’ – the “Understanding our World” hub (in partnership with Esri UK) and the “Way We Work” hub (run by Digital by Default).

Esri UK provide geographical information systems to government departments and bodies such as DEFRA, Public Health England (PHE) and HMRC.

Almost all the data these organisations use, regardless of its source, has one thing in common – a location. They are using Esri UK’s geographic information systems to analyse, visualise and share their intelligence. You find out more about Esri’s part in Civil Service Live 2013 here.

Each hub was home to a number of workshops and demonstrations. One of the first big talks at Civil Service 2013 was by Sir Bob Kerslake – Head of the UK Civil Service. He spoke highly of the work his colleagues in the Civil Service do and provided reassuring words about the change currently taking place. There was also mention of the plan for the future, certainly from an IT point of view…

…It’s great to see a flexible working vision being put in place!

And that speech by Sir Bob set the theme for the rest of the event. It is clear huge innovation is taking place during this period of huge change.

The Way We Work hub

On the subject of flexible working, we had our own flexible working area in Cabinet Office’s ‘The Way We Work’ hub. In our ‘Flexiform’ area were a selection of new Windows 8 tablets  - where attendees could sit down and try new ways of work for themselves, and experience first-hand a new vision for the government workplace.

Microsoft’s Dave Coplin provide some wise works to the assembled audience at the ‘How Will We Work’ panel discussion, looking at future work environments including design and innovation in workspaces. Dave’s new book, Business Reimagined, touches on such subjects so he was perfectly positioned to discuss the topic alongside speakers Phillipa Lloyd (Director General for People, Communications and Corporate Effectiveness) and Lord Deighton (Commercial Secretary to HM Treasury).

There was wide-spread agreement that the nature of office working is changing dramatically and that innovative devices, and employee requirement, are some of the big reasons that are pushing this change. Dave made the very valid point that the perception currently is that you should drive to work (in a central office) then drive all the way back home again when in reality, especially given the congestion on our roads these days, working easily near where you actually live, with as much ease as in the office, is totally possible… though there is still a place for face-to-face meetings with employees.

Size doesn’t matter

Meanwhile, back on our busy Understanding our World hub, among all the fantastic devices and demonstrations we had on offer, one of the main attractions was 80inch touchscreens featuring an impressive map app demo, created by our partner Esri UK. Running on Windows 8, the app overlays mobile phone geo-location data on top of a map of London to show traffic and people movements across any given time period, including live feeds. A demonstration of this app can be seen in our CSL2013 roundup video above.

Government Reimagined

The second day at Civil Service Live 2013 also had its fair share of interesting workshops and discussions. Microsoft hosted a panel session ‘Government Reimagined’ featuring Ed Schofield (Rural Payments Agency), Geoff Connell (London Borough of Havering and Newham) and Mark O’Neill (Government Digital Service). The flavour of the session was very much about the innovative ways in with each of their separate organisations have embraced digital change (and in the case of GDS, are there to help encourage it).

For example, London Borough of Newham and Havering who have been developing a cross-service platform which allows citizens to engage with their local authority in a much simpler and clear way. You can take a look at Newham’s website here: A more in-depth write up of the Government Reimagined panel session is available here.

In a way, the ‘Government Reimagined’ panel session summed up Civil Service Live in general… dramatic change can lead to exciting and innovative new ways of working. Everywhere you turned at Civil Service Live 2013, there were stories of IT innovation – change, it seems, is being embraced.

The event felt very much like the perfect shot in the arm for the new era of Digital by Default in the Civil Service.

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