Barely a week goes by without some ground-breaking technology advances being announced. Tech improvements are set to revolutionise the workplace in almost every sector, and the Civil Service is no exception. While potential for future development is huge, the challenges facing us are also enormous.
How can we ensure that new technologies will help address workplace and social inequalities, rather than entrenching them further? How should we approach the governance and ethics of using AI in healthcare, policing, education, judicial systems, or trade strategies? And how should we tackle the age-old problem of adopting expensive new systems that turn out to be more trouble than they are worth? These are just a few of the questions Fast Streamers will likely have to deal with in the near future.
Embedding diversity at the heart of this transformation is crucial. Kevin Cunnington, Director General of GDS and a Cabinet Office diversity champion, highlights the importance of ‘putting diversity at the heart of digital, data and technology’ to help us reflect the society we serve. Making tech work for people is equally important. As the Director of Government Shared Services Andy Helliwell stresses, new digital approaches are key to making Civil Servants’ lives easier and freeing up time to focus on delivering government priorities.
At the same time, our increasing reliance on inter-connected digital systems is giving rise to unprecedented threats. The National Cyber Security Centre says it protects the UK from over 10 attacks per week, and has warned it is a question of when the country is hit with a major cyber attack, not if. Cyber terrorism presents an increasing challenge for the future. As the Centre for Protection of Critical National Infrastructure notes, we have to be prepared for terrorists seeking to take advantage of our increasing internet dependency to attack or disable key systems.
Thankfully, the unleashing of autonomous killer robots on our streets remains (for the present) a distant prospect. Nevertheless, the security implications arising from advances in AI and machine learning are substantial, as this paper from Chatham House makes clear.
In short, the impacts of new technologies are going to be huge, and we need to understand these problems to be prepared.
In our conference we will explore the future of technology within public service, hear from experts about practical options for improving policy and delivery outcomes using digital, and explore the risks and challenges arising from the unprecedented rate of technological change.
Daniel Schlappa, Future Workplace Lead