Australian Treasury Secretary Stephen Kennedy said the government could do more to foster links between academics and the civil service in a bid to improve policy-making
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Australian Treasury Secretary calls for closer links between civil servants and academia
The Federal Treasury aims to strengthen its engagement with the academic community by introducing an annual policy research conference and plans to establish a visiting fellowship program where academics would work alongside departmental analysts.
The plans were revealed by Treasury Secretary Stephen Kennedy, who said the government could do more to foster links between academics and the civil service in a bid to improve policy-making.
He said policy-making involved debates about “pros and cons” and that evidence from academic research was key to “finding the right balance”.
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Kennedy also pointed to a program for civil servants offered by the Australian National University’s Sir Roland Wilson Foundation, which has awarded scholarships to 64 civil servants in 23 agencies over the past decade. Twenty-six people have completed their studies “and are actively raising capacity in the civil service”, he said.
He added that civil servants with academic backgrounds and advanced research and analytical skills have been instrumental in using real-time data to “understand the changing economic circumstances of the pandemic, especially in the two published reviews of the JobKeeper payment”. .
Women’s Health Strategy for England unveiled in bid to close gender health gap
The UK government has released a Women’s Health Strategy for England which aims to tackle ‘deep-rooted systemic issues’ in healthcare to improve the well-being of women and girls.
The scoping document – informed by a call for evidence that received nearly 100,000 responses – includes commitments to introduce mandatory women’s health-focused education and training for new physicians; improve fertility services and pregnancy loss support; update guidelines on women-specific health conditions such as endometriosis; and expand related research and data collection.
“When we launched our call for evidence to inform the release of this strategy, women across the country gave us a clear mandate for change,” said Maria Caulfield, Minister of Women’s Health. “Addressing the gender health gap will not be easy – there are deep-rooted systemic issues that we must address to ensure women receive the same standards of care as men, universally and by default.
The government has acknowledged the disparities in the way men and women receive and experience health care and said the strategy will help “reset the way the health and care system listens to women”.
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Among the policies outlined in the strategy, “one-stop-shop” women’s health centers will be expanded; additional funds will go to breast cancer screening; barriers preventing same-sex female couples from receiving IVF treatment will be removed; healthcare professionals will receive advice on how to deal with patients who have suffered trauma such as domestic violence; and a new reproductive health policy research unit will be established.
“Women live longer on average than men but spend more of their lives in poor health, which often limits their ability to work and participate in daily activities. Closing the gender gap in health and helping women live well will not only benefit women’s health and wellbeing, but also the health of the economy,” the government said.
UK Border Force ‘less than the sum of its parts’, review finds
A review of the UK Border Force found that it is “unsustainably and highly inefficiently stretching its resources” and that despite having a “dedicated and capable workforce” it appears to be “less than the sum of its parts with significant systemic effects. challenges”.
The Independent Review of Border Force’s Preparedness for Future Challenges, which was commissioned by Home Secretary Priti Patel in February, said the agency was operating at a “sub-optimal level”.
The report said Border Force “appears to be struggling to emerge from a crisis management cycle, reacting to the latest challenge and preparing for the next, regardless of how predictable the next challenge may be.”
And added that there was “little capacity” for strategic planning or workforce development and that an inability to plan effectively “is further affected by failures to deliver enabling functions such as recruitment and supply”.
“Steps must be taken to resolve the administrative issues that continue to distract the organization so that it can focus on its core mission,” he said.
Recommendations from Alexander Downer, Australia’s former immigration minister – who undertook the review – include the creation of a new advisory council; improve capacity planning; an updated learning strategy and improved career paths and training for staff through a Border Force Academy; and better equip the Force to carry out its mission through workforce equity.
Downer said the Force faces “exceptional challenges” and he hopes his recommendations will make it more resilient while providing “the direction it needs to create improvements.”
The Home Office has also announced that it is working on a scheme which would allow some passengers to enter the UK through automated border control, rather than having to speak to a police officer. border forces or using an electronic gate.
Passengers who can enter without contact would instead be pre-screened and identified at the border using technology. The department aims to launch a pilot of the program in 2024.
The project is part of the new Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy, which outlines the direction of travel for the next three years and focuses on improving the customer journey as well as security.
Patel said she was focused on ensuring the UK had a border “worthy of 21st century” and that she was “committed to ensuring that our fantastic Border Force has access to the latest technology so that it can use its specialist skills to protect our border from those who seek to harm the UK”.
Estonia steps up virtual civil servant project
The Estonian government has enlisted tech experts from around the world to help develop its AI-based virtual assistant, Bürokratt.
In what Estonia calls a world first for the public sector, Bürokratt will allow citizens to apply for benefits, make payments, register a birth, file taxes, renew a passport and access other government services via Siri-like voice interaction.
Enabled by an interoperable network of AI applications, the digital assistant – which can be accessed via mobile phone, tablet or laptop – was first announced in March 2020 and is currently being implemented after Passed beta testing in 2021. It will officially go live later this year. .
Read more: From mini-state to digital giant: Siim Sikkut on Estonia’s remarkable journey
As part of the next stage of development, the Baltic nation is calling on software developers and data scientists, analysts and architects from World Trade Organization member countries to apply to be part of the project. He is particularly interested in those who specialize in language technologies and machine learning.
“Having built and been recognized by the World Government Summit as the best AI-powered government service with Bürokratt, we want to improve the service even further, to give citizens more control over how their personal data is used to access to government services,” said Ott Velsberg, data manager in Estonia.
“We look forward to welcoming a range of specialists to come and work with us and be part of one of the most technologically advanced government projects in Europe and contribute to the development of a government AI stack that benefits all. the whole of society.”
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