Neil Warsop is a deputy director at the Government Digital Service (GDS), the United Kingdom. We will be directing our spotlight on his exploits prior to our upcoming Digital Discussion on March 10, where he is one of the high-profile international panelists discussing digitalisation challenges and national digital strategies of Estonia, Singapore, the UK, and the OECD.
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Founded in 2011 following a report recommending digital transformation for modern governance, the GDS is a unit of the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office tasked with providing online public services. The unit ‘builds platforms, products and services that help create a simple, joined-up and personalised experience of government for everyone.’ Neil joined GDS in 2017 as a deputy director and currently heads the professional services division. This internal division provides government digital data and technology consultancy at the domestic and international level and deploys expert support to government departments.
A long-serving civil servant
Neil began active civil service in 2001 upon joining HM Treasury, where he worked for over six years and ascended to the position of spending principal. After exiting HM Treasury and before resuming at the GDS, he served in various policy delivery and senior civil service managerial roles in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Neil is also a major project reviewer for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. He graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in History and Politics.
Enabling all-around national development
As far back as the early 2000s, Neil had already committed to enabling overall national development. In 2003, while a policy analyst of the enterprise team at HM Treasury, Neil sat on the advisory board of the Inner City 100. The Inner City 100 was an innovative UK business index led by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) which aimed to ‘change the perception of the inner city from a no-go area to a vibrant place to do business, advance UK inner city business growth, launch a national movement of inner city entrepreneurs, and champion inner city revitalisation across the country.’
It also located and celebrated ‘the 100 fastest-growing inner city enterprises in the UK.’ During the third annual Inner City 100 Awards Ceremony held in 2003, Neil’s participation and immense contribution were acknowledged. Even now, Neil remains active in public-private sector projects that aim to boost solid national development. His participation as one of the lead discussants at the November 2019 Digital Leaders Salon themed Exchanging Knowledge – Driving value in public-private collaborations further reiterates his commitment.
Seamless inter-state departments collaboration
At a Civil Service World round-table held in 2016 with Neil in attendance, a crucial question was put forward: ‘As (government) departments work hard to deliver reforms and savings, how can they ensure opportunities for connecting are identified and exploited?’ Achieving effective collaboration is a significant challenge for civil service commissions worldwide. This is not surprising given the sizable number of ministries, agencies, and departments that make up the civil service. During the round-table, the general concession was that a work culture that allowed and encouraged effective collaboration needed to be developed.
Upon the discussion steering towards ‘how staff could be encouraged to innovate and make connections with each other but still keep such processes manageable,’ Neil wondered how effective collaboration could be sought among people who handled similar tasks and had common goals right within the civil service but were in different professions. “Incentives to collaborate come from strong networks, but how do you create communities of people doing similar tasks who are not in one profession?” he asked.
Co-author and postgraduate student