Digital/ Technology Engineering
Creating cutting edge technology solutions for the public sector through collaborations between academia and industry.
Working together under a formal ISO44001 collaborative working relationship since 2018, SVGC and FCDO Services have aided The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) to execute their Digital Sensitivity Review (DSR) using state of the art digital solutions.
Every UK Government department is obliged to transfer all public records to The National Archives (TNA), demonstrating full transparency of processes and public spending. Pre the dawn of computers in the workplace, files were stored and processed manually on paper. However, since the digital revolution FCDO files were being stored both digitally and on paper.
This has meant that the DSR for the FCDO has become an enormous and challenging task. The sheer number of digital files selected and taken through sensitivity review is vast and requires innovative solutions to ensure the records are processed securely and to achieve the greatest possible release to the public in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Having provided consultancy services to improve business efficiency, as well as training, support and guidance, SVGC also engineered and integrated new state of the art technology solutions.
With a digital record system that has expanded exponentially over the years it was clear that FCDO required new technology that helped Sensitivity Reviewers to work more quickly, reduce risk, to be robust enough to meet rigorous government security protocols and was easy to use. The problem was, this digital system didn’t exist – so we created it.
A unique and blended team of business, security and digital experts provided the high-quality, rapid and cost-effective solutions FCDO required. By supporting FCDO Services as a collaborative partner we were able to offer technology engineering experience and take FCDO to the next stage of this project.
SVGC was originally founded to provide support to the Ministry of Defence and associated industry, and we have over 24 years’ experience offering our expertise. With substantial knowledge of the sector, we were perfectly suited to work on this project. As a result, our services are now also increasingly in demand from other government departments, commercial organisations and the nuclear sector.
Developing a system capable of delivering exactly what FCDO required was no mean feat. Our team of technology engineers worked collaboratively with FCDO Services and the University of Glasgow to deliver a multi-phase development that is exploiting efficiency technologies including the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
We established a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Glasgow. This meant we were able to come together to create new technology using state of the art hardware and software which was reliably researched and subject to extensive peer review.
The use of cutting-edge software and solution technologies meant that we were able to alleviate pressures on highly skilled Sensitivity Reviewers by accelerating the review, and reducing risk by highlighting areas of known sensitivity.
Through experimentation, we were able to upload decisions made in the past by reviewers and create guidance that could be understood by a computer. When this was applied to current records, it helped answer questions and speed up the review process. The introduction of robotic applications also further reduced the risk of human error by standardising repeatable business processes.
The system we created needed to be future proof, and able to evolve to respond to new file types and patterns of use. We assess how we can improve through continual experimentation with knowledge and foresight of future transfer demands and regular evaluation of solution implementation.
The development of our bespoke, state of the art digital system has resulted in the FCDO Services team pivoting from digitally-averse to pro-active in the identification and road-mapping of how and where digital solutions help – not just within the digital record but with the greater backlog in the paper record.
With support and training, the reviewers have been able to use the system with ease and the introduction of semi automation has reduced human effort where it makes sense to do so. Progress on other applications to enhance core capability has also been achieved and provides relevant insights, reducing the time required to analyse material.
Our modular approach builds in the ability to take advantage of emerging technologies to continue leading the way. Interest across HMG remains extremely high and are now expanding our activities to include other Whitehall Departments.
Dr Jonathan Gudgeon, Head of Sensitivity Review at FCDO Services said:
“I realised I needed some help and SVGC delivered – bringing innovation, novel solutions, academic rigour and a robust engineered approach in a collaborative, open, honest and tenacious way”.