UK civil servants – hopefully including those spending billions on tech – to skill up in STEM

How about the ministers go next?

UK citizens wondering if Whitehall civil servants really "get" technology may be heartened to learn that the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology have signed up for the STEM Futures scheme.

According to DSIT: "The scheme puts civil servants together with a diverse range of experts who all have a shared interest, ranging from data science, to systems thinking."

Sounds like a great relief to taxpayers fearing catastrophic government technology implementations.

DSIT is the first UK government department to participate in the scheme, which offers civil servants learning opportunities such as shadowing, placements and mentoring with experts from various backgrounds. The plan is to boost civil servants' STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills over the long term.

Experience at the sharp end of the world outside Whitehall will come from tech companies, research institutes and universities.

The program is run by the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) Profession, which comprises organizations across industry, academia and the public sector.

DSIT has long attempted to get some real-world cutting-edge expertise into government. It is also participating in the Expert Exchange scheme, which is intended to overhaul how DSIT works with the science and technology sectors. The scheme includes secondments for experts from industry and academia.

DSIT said: "Joining STEM Futures further cements that mission, with a view to making working hand-in-glove with experts and stakeholders the default mode for policymaking at DSIT."

The department faces several challenges that would undoubtedly benefit from civil servants getting up to speed. DSIT is set to lead an enormously complex ERP procurement project as well as deal with the UK government's telecoms strategy among other things.

DSIT today appointed Dave Smith, as the UK's new technology advisor, replacing Sir Patrick Vallance. Most recently, Smith was tech director at Roll-Royce but has worked in the fields of networking, security and more.

A bit more technical expertise in the newly created department is a good idea, particularly since one of its avowed goals is to "seize the potential of ground-breaking new technologies like AI." ®

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