David Cameron testing app to aid government decisions

 
David Cameron David Cameron has been trialling the app for a couple of months, the BBC understands

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A mobile app to aid in decision-making and day-to-day government affairs is being trialled by the prime minister.

Mr Cameron has been using it to keep track of live data relating to jobs, housing and other areas.

It also monitors polls and posts on social media, giving the PM an at-a-glance view of how the country feels about him and his government.

The Cabinet Office said the app would be offered to more government figures next year.

According those working on the project, Mr Cameron is "looking forward to showing it to President Obama at the G8 summit".

The app, which had the working title of Number 10 Dashboard, was developed by the Cabinet Office's digital team - and pulls data from hundreds of data sources including Google, Twitter and Facebook.

The Cabinet Office confirmed it was "working on a data visualisation dashboard to provide ministers and civil servants with information on key public services as well as other indicators. The dashboard is in working form and is now undergoing further development".

It is a web app - meaning it can be viewed on any type of internet-enabled tablet or mobile device. It has a look and feel similar to that of the government's data website, data.gov.uk.

Start Quote

The Number 10 Dashboard, according to someone who has been involved in its development, is merely echoing what is already being done in the business world”

End Quote

A Cabinet Office source confirmed to the BBC that the app, which is still in its testing phase, is currently on the prime minister's iPad, as well as devices used by a select group of staff within the Cabinet Office.

"It's been presented to the PM in person," he said.

"He's used it, given feedback on it to help improve it - and there is now great demand for it right across government."

'Radical for government'

The source said that in 2013 the app would be "rolled out across Whitehall" and would give ministers a more immediate and honest view over what is happening in the country.

"If you want to provide ministers and officials with information about performance of government, you can look at government data - but you can also look at data from the real world," he said.

"All we're doing is bringing government into line with what leading companies, big and small, have been doing for several years. It's radical for government, but it's not radical for 2012."

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Trending topics is hardly a way to govern a country”

End Quote Dominic Campbell FutureGov

The app will provide Mr Cameron with information relating to "trending" topics from search engines and social media - keeping tabs on the levels of activity around key words such as "mortgage" or "loan".

The app, which is in the final stages of beta testing, also pulls data from Adzuna - a London-based start-up which aggregates large amounts of data from a number of job vacancy and property-listing sites.

"The benefits of using our data is that it's right up-to-the-minute, real-time data about what's happening in the market," said Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna.

It will allow the prime minister to see, in real-time, whether there are more or less vacancies day-by-day, and what the average salaries on offer are.

A traffic light system displays the current status of various government initiatives - and whether any need special attention.

Official data from the likes of the Office for National Statistics and YouGov is also incorporated.

'Miracle'

However, questions have been raised over the reliability and usefulness of data which is "live" and unverified.

"If it's reliable, it's through some kind of miracle," Dominic Campbell, founder of FutureGov, told the BBC.

"I don't see the benefit for [David Cameron] personally. What's he going to do with it? He's a figurehead politician who's just going to use it for speeches."

Adzuna's Mr Monro defended the approach, saying: "The real reason is timeliness. In bringing all sorts of data into government decision-making, it's changing the way the government uses data."

iPad Mr Cameron's iPad was a gift from Apple, according to a gift list disclosed by the government

But Mr Campbell said he worried that following information through social networking could lead to a more "reactive" government.

"Trending topics is hardly a way to govern a country," he said.

Rumours of an app first surfaced in April this year when it was speculated that the prime minister would use it to keep an eye on the activities of ministers on various different social networks.

A freedom of information request revealed that the government was indeed working on an app - but until now no solid details of its functionality had been given.

Mr Cameron has in the past joked that he used his iPad for playing popular games such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 295.

    Having key, up to date, management information to hand in an easy to view form is desirable in any large undertaking. What is not so easy is making sure you use the right data sets so that you really know what is happening under the surface. Your 'dashboard' might indicate correct progress towards desired objectives, but is it accurate and will it tell you if a fire breaks out in the engine room?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 254.

    This is nothing new. Most large businesses have been using dashboards and RAG statuses for decades to keep senior management abreast of how their companies are performing so I don't see any good reason why Governments shouldn't do something similar.

    The same old people will criticise it regardless however.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 232.

    When, and as likely won't be the case, DC makes a decision based on this 'app data', I truly hope he publishes all the data that he used to make the decision and an explanation of how he came to his conclusions. Social media and associated data is 'noise' it is no basis upon which to make decisions - it's micro data which will lead to micro policies. Government should be setting macro policy!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 230.

    A PM who is not in touch with the real world is now going keep regularly in touch with a virtual world, a parallel universe, of focus groups, twits, and polls. His opinion will be shaped by opinion shapers and he will be even more out of touch with reality than before ... walk the streets, PM, listen to real people, hear their stories, go into shops, find out how much milk costs ...

  • rate this
    +44

    Comment number 153.

    How about the government instead release a free app for all eligible UK voters on which we can give our opinions so that our elected politicians can act on our behalves?

    - Should we replace Trident?
    - Should we be privatising health, education and national security?
    - Should we focus our investment on the South East or on other regions?
    - Should we reduce taxes on millionaires?
    etc.

 

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