New UK government furthers AI focus with DSIT revamp

The new UK government has announced that it will expand the size and scope of its technology department, and – unsurprisingly – indicated that it will continue with the previous administration's focus on AI.

Mary Lennighan

July 9, 2024

2 Min Read

The UK voted in a Labour government late last week, the new PM installing Peter Kyle as Secretary of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). And the new government quickly announced that it will enlarge DSIT... although the details are thin on the ground at this stage.

Essentially, it will give DSIT a boost by bringing in what it terms "experts in data, digital and AI" from a handful of other government departments under the Cabinet Office: Government Digital Service (GDS); Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO); and Incubator for AI (i.AI).

But it did not put a number on that pledge.

What we do know is that this is part of a commitment by the new government to improve the digitisation of public services by making it easier for the public to interact with government – single logins and so forth – as well as removing roadblocks to sharing data across public services.

"Britain will not fully benefit from the social and economic potential of science and technology without government leading by example. So, DSIT is to become the centre for digital expertise and delivery in government, improving how the government and public services interact with citizens," Peter Kyle said, in a statement.

The government also talked up DSIT's role in helping other departments with their use of technology, namechecking energy, health, policing and education.

"It will help to upskill civil servants so they are better at using digital and AI in their frontline work, as well as ensure the government has the right infrastructure and regulation to become more digital," it said.

That AI focus, including the regulatory aspect, was top of the agenda for the previous administration. The Spring Budget included an AI upskilling fund, for example, and the AI Safety Institute is up and running.

The UK is not the only one banging the AI drum, of course. Most, if not all, developed economies are ploughing money into artificial intelligence, to one degree or another, while seeking to position themselves as leaders in this new space. We will likely see more of that from Labour as time progresses.

Indeed, Kyle spent just under a year as shadow technology secretary prior to the election and made it clear then that he would champion the AI cause.

Speaking at a TechUK event in the spring, Kyle spoke about the potential of AI for public services and businesses. "It is only by making AI an everyday tool for businesses of all sizes, in every sector, that we can unleash it fully for our economy," he said, noting that the Labour party was "already working on an AI strategy."

This DSIT announcement is the first evidence of that strategy. There's not a lot in it yet, but with any luck the new government will flesh out some of the details over the coming months.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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