GovTech startups are helping to transform the way the UK is run. As huge strides are made in artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital communications, it’s unsurprising that governments and public services are looking to utilise these tools to work more efficiently.
Daniel Korski, former special adviser to PM David Cameron and now co-founder and CEO of VC firm PUBLIC, reckons that Europe is set for a GovTech revolution. “Everyone knows technology is transforming government—this is a well-worn adage,” he told Tech Talks. “But it is now impossible to ignore or deny that the driving force of this transformation is small tech companies and startups.”
PUBLIC reports that GovTech spending in Europe alone stands at €21.8 billion; this figure looks likely to increase as demand rises and affordable cloud-based platforms come to the fore. TechRound takes a look at 10 startups leading the way.
Apolitical is a peer-to-peer learning platform for public servants, designed to help governments to think smarter and better serve their communities. Co-designed and funded by governments, its strength is in connecting users to courses, events, news and connections around the world and across sectors, rather than filtering content down to just one department and a set way of working. This bigger picture approach showcases innovative thought and new technologies from across the board and helps people working on similar issues to connect and compare experiences.
As of 2019, Apolitical is used by public servants in over 160 countries and its partners include the Cabinet Office, World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.
Novoville is a citizen engagement platform for local councils, designed to make it easier for residents to apply for services, report issues and share their views. The comprehensive platform corrals everything in one place, shows real-time data on service performance and provides residents automated updates on how their issue is being handled. Novoville says that its technology improves efficiency by 24% and is 70% more cost-effective per issue resolved.
So far, Novoville has been adopted by the Scottish government and by local authorities in Watford, the West Midlands and the States of Guernsey and Jersey.
Forward is a secure, streamlined and fully NHS compliant mobile messaging and media sharing platform for healthcare professionals. Compared to standard texting or instant messaging, Forward is smarter and more connected: users can contact colleagues from across organisations without needing their personal phone number, easily sharing patient cards, tasks and relevant media. When off shift, users can mark themselves unavailable and enjoy uninterrupted downtime. In pilot studies, Forward saved clinicians approximately 45 minutes per shift, with 74% reporting improved work satisfaction.
Futr is working with police forces, local councils and central government organisations to produce self-service chatbots that deliver high functionality at a reduced cost. Users can speak to Futr’s bots in 103 languages and across 16 channels including Facebook Messenger and Slack; complicated issues are routed to human operators, while simpler ones are dealt with entirely in chat. Futr also has the advantage of multimedia communication: citizens can share their exact location and images of what they are seeing, which is invaluable in the case of emergency services.
Informed Actions uses predictive data analytics to help emergency services, welfare services and social housing authorities to remotely monitor operations, anticipate future changes and optimise resources.
By combining historical and real-time data with additional datasets such as weather, traffic and socio-economic information, the software is able to predict where and when problems are likely to arise. In the case of emergency services, the system predicts where accidents are likely to occur, suggests the most effective way to deploy vehicles and uses real-time data on traffic, weather and hospital queues to shape its solutions. The average user sees an 18% reduction in costs.
Faculty (formerly ASI Data Science)
Faculty works with public and private organisations around the UK to develop AI-based solutions for the challenges they face. Among its clients are the Home Office, NHS England and the BBC.
In 2018, Faculty and the Home Office unveiled a tool that uses machine learning to identify and flag potential ISIS propaganda before it reaches viewers; it is able to detect 94% of ISIS content with 99.995% accuracy.
Babylon is a mobile health platform that is used to power the NHS GP at Hand service, a quick and accessible alternative to traditional GP practices. GP at Hand offers patients 24/7 video chat appointments with qualified doctors, often within minutes of requesting to be seen. Should patients need to be seen in person, GP at Hand runs six clinics in London and Birmingham.
Patchwork (formerly LocumTap)
Patchwork transforms temporary staffing by connecting vacant shifts with a growing marketplace of healthcare workers. NHS trusts around the UK are using Patchwork’s marketplace to fill shifts; Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust reports an average bank fill rate of over 90% across departments and specialties, where the average is around 30%. NHS Employers reports that its use saves around £40,000 a month in agency spending in junior doctor shifts alone.
Unblur helps first responders to make the fastest and safest decisions during an incident. Tactical and operational teams are connected by one platform which shows all data in one place in real time, improving communication and reducing saturation. Unblur’s platform was co-created with emergency services and is currently used by Dublin Fire Brigade and Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service.
Built-ID helps communities to have their say on projects in their neighbourhoods by connecting them with developers and councils. The Give My View platform gives residents the opportunity to share what their concerns and thoughts on how developments should be carried out in a clear, visually engaging way.
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is using Give My View to guide its residents through the development of Kensal Canalside. Through polls and consultation boards, residents have expressed their concerns about traffic congestion, pedestrian connections, improvement of the canal area and desire to keep an existing supermarket on the site. Their input is being continuously added to the council’s guidance document as the project evolves.