Cabinet Office hails One Big Thing data-skills success

Department says 212,000 civil servants took part in four-month drive to boost knowledge

By Jim Dunton

26 Jan 2024

More than half of all staff at core departments and 40% of civil servants across government took part in the four-month One Big Thing data-skills drive, the Cabinet Office has said.

A total of 212,000 officials are known to have participated in the learning-and-development initiative, which launched in September last year and offered staff the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge about data as part of ongoing government reforms.

One Big Thing 2023 offered all civil servants the opportunity to take a survey to establish their “learning level” and then undertake seven hours of e-learning, recording what they did and then providing feedback. All courses were supposed to be finished by 31 December.

In a blog post yesterday the Cabinet Office said that 182,000 “core” courses had been completed by officials at the end of the programme, and that 703,000 hours of data learning had been provided to programme participants.

The figures suggest that around 30,000 people started a course they did not complete and that those officials who did complete their courses spent less than the expected time doing so.

According to the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions led ministerial departments in terms of take-up, with 84% of staff signing up for training. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology was in second place, with 82% of officials. Third was the Home Office with 72%.

Home Office permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft is sponsor of the “digital skills at scale” mission under the government’s Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 Roadmap for Digital and Data.

While DWP and DSIT featured in the top five ministerial departments for course completions as well as sign-ups, the Home Office did not.

Two non-ministerial departments had higher take-up than DWP for One Big Thing: the Office of Road and Rail (87%) and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (85%).

The Cabinet Office said organising One Big Thing had required a “huge collective effort” across the civil service, supported by leaders and delivery teams from all government departments along with the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit, the Central Digital and Data Office, the Office for National Statistics and the Incubator for Artificial Intelligence.

“The digital and data mission was launched in July 2023 as part of Government Reform Phase 2 and aims for the civil service to harness the power of digital and data to make better decisions, improve service delivery and enhance user experience,” the Cabinet Office said.

“It’s a key element of government reform and a major part of our vision for A Modern Civil Service.”

It said that on average one civil servant signed up to learn about data every 15 seconds of each working day from the 4 September launch of One Big Thing.  Wednesdays were the most popular days for sign-ups.

The theme for One Big Thing 2024 is due to be announced later this year.

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