UK government announces expansion of DSIT

The UK government has announced its expansion of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT.) In a statement published this afternoon, the department explained that it will expand “in both scope and size” by bringing the Government Digital Service (GDS), the Incubator for AI (iAI) and the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) under its organisational umbrella.

The move fulfils a prior campaign pledge by the new Labour government to pursue so-called ‘data-driven government’ informed by statistical ground truth. The expansion of DSIT to encompass public sector bodies that routinely gather such data would, its new secretary of state Peter Kyle said, also serve as an example for the private sector. “DSIT is to become the centre for digital expertise and delivery in government, improving how the Government and public services interact with citizens,” said Kyle. “We will act as a leader and partner across government, with industry and the research communities, to boost Britain’s economic performance and power up our public services to improve the lives and life chances of people through the application of science and technology.”

The offices of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in Whitehall. The department has announced its annexation of several data divisions within the government under its organisation umbrella. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / bryansjs)

DSIT aims to improve public interactions with UK government

For its part, DSIT argued that its expansion would help improve day-to-day interactions between the government and the public it represents, making it “more personalised, convenient, and time-saving.” This included providing citizens with a single way to log in to government services online – though this appears to refer to the ‘OneLogin’ project pioneered by the previous Conservative-led administration. 

Additionally, said the department, DSIT will become the locus for digital upskilling within Whitehall. The newly expanded ministry, it added, will train civil servants to use new types of software and AI in their daily jobs, “as well as ensure the Government has the right infrastructure and regulation to become more digital.”

Labour tech policies anchored in potential for economic growth

Since its time in opposition, most of the Labour Party’s policies on key technology issues are largely informed by their potential to boost countrywide economic growth. DSIT’s expansion was also couched in these terms, with the department claiming that its new expansion would help it “accelerate innovation, investment and productivity through world-class science and research across the economy.”

Details on how this will be achieved have yet to emerge. Concerns about the lack of detail on other of Labour’s technology policies were expressed by UK tech leaders late last week, including how it would approach AI regulation differently than the previous Conservative government. Some clarity did emerge earlier today, however, when Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner acted on Labour’s pledge to ease planning restrictions for data centres by reviewing two planning appeals by facility operators in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire

For his part, Civo’s chief executive Mark Boost is optimistic about the new government’s overall attitude toward regulating the UK cloud market. “I am hopeful that the Labour Party will bring a new perspective,” said Boost, urging it to promote the country’s sovereign cloud capabilities. “For too long, the government has prioritised US big tech over our own UK sovereign capabilities. This needs to change so we can have a stronger and more robust UK economy that is not dependent on giant hyperscale companies that do not have the best interests of the UK at heart.”

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