GDS’s GOV.UK Data Labs to Improve Data Science Efforts in UK

by June 15, 2020 0 comments
Data Science

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The Government Digital Services of the UK has recently unveiled an initiative to bring together the government services and data science to focus on user-centered design disciplines. Prioritizing on a transformative approach, the GOV.UK Data Labs service shall concentrate on augmenting the use of data to develop products and services and later improve them. In other words, the main objective is to help the public sector make better use of anonymous data and data science in how they provide services through the GOV.UK website.

The team involved in this project will also work on the provision of data insights to government departments, as well as personalization and development of infrastructure to enhance the government’s vision of data-driven citizen services. Recently, they are putting efforts on boosting the user experience, since people mostly rely on online services, especially in the wake of COVID-19. As per info from GDS, GOV.UK has received an average of 1000 comments every day on inquiries ranging from furlough schemes to food deliveries and government services during the lockdown period.

Product manager Ganesh Senthi says, “The goals are to help optimize content and user journeys, ensure that teams across government deliver relevant access to anonymized performance data, explore the idea of consent-based personalized experiences on GOV.UK, and to spread data insights.”

Currently, to comprehend aspects like user volume, page interactions, testing, and for feedback analysis, GDS is utilizing quantitative and qualitative data. While comments, when combined with analytical abilities, can provide indicators on user needs online and therefore provide information regarding policy changes, there are few challenges involved. For starters, this method demands a lot of manual tagging and analysis, plus due to the lack of scalability of the current set-up data is used ineffectively for the same. So, to overcome such intricacy and maximize the benefits of working with data, the UK government launched GOV.UK Data Labs to assess issues across the whole GOV.UK domain and what can be further automated to ensure delivery at scale.

According to Senthi and a blog post by Matt Gregory, a senior data scientist working in this initiative, the team has already started working on three main areas. First is the usage of the GOV.UK Intent and Feedback Explore Tool (GIFT) to consolidate disparate qualitative and quantitative sources. This tool employs natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to sort, theme, and present trends in feedback overtime for a page, service, group of services, or topics such as Brexit or COVID-19. The latter was prompted due to the massive volume of feedback from users needing to interact with the government because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second is using knowledge graph technology or govGraph. This is to display how various entities relate to each other and bring out new patterns in the data. For 2020, the aim is to produce a dynamic representation of GOV.UK content, augmented with metadata, structured data, and content, and cross-domain service analytics data and content.

“We’ve identified many opportunities where this technology could be applied, including question answering, supporting GOV.UK content with search engines and other third parties, cross-platform sharing of our content, and as an analytical tool for disciplines like content and service design across government,” explained Senthi.

The final focus area is on enriching and structuring more content on GOV.UK, amounting to around 450,000 attributes. These attributes can be either a page-level HTML, the topic a content item is tagged to, the publishing organization, document type, and dates. The goal is to develop a corpus of government terms and a semantic graph that can be added to govGraph and used more widely across GOV.UK. Further, the purpose of doing so to be as granular and detailed as possible. This means identifying attributes including things (such as passports), people (such as ministers), places (such as Ireland) and eligibility criteria (such as costs and age), and adding this information through NLP and AI to make graphs more valuable for the government.

Additionally, the data division will also seek to empower teams across GOV.UK by the increasing use of data insights, understanding the type of information users want, and literacy.

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