Natalie Leal

Freelance Journalist

Irish government hosts blockchain hackathon to spark innovation

The Irish government last weekend hosted a blockchain hackathon, as part of its work to bring innovative technology into the public sector. The three-day event, called ‘Blockathon Ireland’, was hosted by The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in association with The Department of Finance. Its aim was to identify and explore solutions to public sector challenges using blockchain technology. Nine teams took part in the hackathon, competing for the top prize of €5000 by identifying innov

UK ‘fake news’ unit wins permanent funding

A UK government unit that works to tackle ‘fake news’ and disinformation has been given the go-ahead to continue on a permanent basis. According to PRWeek, the Cabinet Office confirmed the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) is “continuing operations” with funding now in place. Alex Aiken, executive director of the Government Communications Service, told PRWeek: “Last week I set out three government communication priorities for the year ahead – raising standards, strengthening our democracy and reassuri

People-led innovation project to help tackle policy challenges

A new initiative by two US think tanks aims to help public bodies explore innovative ways of consulting and engaging with communities, finding new answers to public policy challenges. The People-Led Innovation project was launched on Tuesday by GovLab and the Bertelsmann Foundation. Noting that citizens’ knowledge, insights and ideas often hold the key to the problems faced by governments, GovLab co-founder Stefaan Verhulst said the new tools will help officials consider “the most effective way

‘Leadership deficit’ hitting US morale, survey finds

There has been a dramatic fall in US federal employee engagement in 2018, research has found, with senior leadership a major concern amongst workers. The ‘2018 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government’ rankings, produced by the Partnership for Public Service and the Boston Consulting Group, found employee engagement fell at nearly 60% of government agencies over the past year. Nearly 40% registered an increase in employee engagement, but the Partnership for Public Service says this repres

A south downs walk to savour this weekend

1. From the Whiteways car park, standing with the cafe to your left, take the bridleway past the metal gate and head into the woods. You soon enter Houghton Forest, a Forestry Commission woodland of mainly beech trees with the odd patch of conifer. Whitewalls and Houghton Forest is a popular spot for ramblers, families, bikers and dog walkers and the wide, well surfaced paths and bridleways make it accessible even in those wet autumn and winter months. When you reach a fork in the path keep le

Anxiety: How to recognise it and what to do about it

Research by UniHealth last year found that a massive 82% of first and second year university students suffer from stress and anxiety. This shocking statistic means that more than eight out of every ten students are currently feeling this way, with only a quarter of those surveyed saying they would reach out for help. You may be one of them, or it could be a roommate who is suffering. The important thing to know is that you are not alone and there are lots of ways to get help. Here are some anxiety symptoms to look out for in yourself – or others – as well as a list of completely free resources to try.

Meet the graduates who founded their own startup at university

Being a student is often associated with being poor – three years of eating baked beans on toast, drinking cheap beer at the uni bar, and paying back a huge loan once you graduate. But what if you could use your time at university to make money rather than struggle with it? Research by Santander earlier this year found that more than a quarter of current students are doing just that; setting up or planning their own enterprise alongside their studies. And many are doing pretty well too, with an average turnover of £11,408!

Australian government to launch digital transformation strategy

The Australian government is to launch a new digital transformation strategy at the beginning of 2019, setting out a roadmap designed to make the country a world leader in digital government by 2025. Speaking at the Gartner Symposium on the Gold Coast last week, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said the strategy will include milestones and timescales to keep the country on track to realising its digital ambitions. ”I’m going to make sure that this strategy,

Morale plummets in US labour relations agencies

Satisfaction with senior leadership has declined sharply among the U.S. agencies responsible for governing labour-management relations and federal workforce issues, the government’s workforce survey has found. The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, run by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), measures employee satisfaction and engagement across 82 different government agencies annually. Respondents were asked to give opinions on their jobs, workplaces and leadership between April and June t

Former head of UK civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, dies at 56

The death of the former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, was announced on Sunday. Sir Jeremy was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 but continued in his role for a further year until June 2018, when he took leave of absence to receive treatment. He officially took retirement and left his post just two weeks ago, on 24 October, saying he was stepping down “with great sadness” on medical advice. In a gesture of respect he was awarded a life peerage, becoming

A weekend walk on the Sussex/Hampshire border

1. Park up in the lay-by next to the Walderton village sign and then walk back out to the main road and turn right. Walk along the narrow pavement until the road curves around to the right and a smaller road peels off to the left. Turn down this quieter road walking past the houses and continue straight ahead following the twists and turns of the lane through the woodland. This road is extremely quiet with only the odd car, cyclist or horse going past. Continue walking for approximately one mil

UK satellite data to improve public service delivery

High-resolution satellite images will help the UK public sector tackle issues such as plastic waste and city planning, the government has announced. The UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP) will provide thousands of free images and radar data to government departments, emergency services and local councils. The data will be available for up to three years while the government explores how it could benefit public sector delivery. Announcing the plans in late October,

French civil servants targeted by Chinese cyber spies, leak reveals

A leaked French intelligence services report has revealed that thousands of the country’s civil servants have been targeted by Chinese spies using fake LinkedIn profiles. Following the leak to leading French newspaper Le Figaro, the UK’s Telegraph reported that in recent months Chinese spies have pretended to be headhunters, consultants or think tank employees seeking to connect with nearly 4000 French civil servants and business executives on the professional social networking site. Of those

World Bank report highlights innovation in 15 case studies

A new report shedding light on how low- and middle-income countries can improve their public sectors and civil services was launched yesterday by the World Bank. The report, ‘Improving Public Sector Performance: Through Innovation and Inter-Agency Coordination’, sets out 15 case studies to demonstrate how public sector innovation is working in practice. Examples include Rwanda, which has achieved better district level development outcomes by incentivising local government employees; and Indone

Parham offers a picturesque weekend walk

1. Park on the verge just past the gatehouses to Parham Park. Enter through the white gates and follow the public footpath straight ahead along the wide path. This is the West Sussex Literary trail, a 55 mile walking trail linking Horsham in the north to Chichester in the south. Continue to follow the wide tarmac path through the park and after about a third of a mile you will see the stone walls and then the large house to your right. Parham House has its roots back in Elizabethan times and is

Think tank urges UK to improve data transparency

A UK think tank is calling on the government to publish better data on public spending, outsourcing, and the civil service workforce. The report, ‘Gaps in government data: Five things the UK government should publish’, was released last week by the Institute for Government. The report’s author, Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the think tank, argues that plugging the gaps in public data would improve government effectiveness and help people hold it to account. Freeguard notes

Trump court appeal seeks to cut civil service protections

The Trump administration has filed an appeal against a recent court judgment which invalidated three executive orders clamping down on civil service union activity. The Justice Department filed a notice on Tuesday and the case will be heard at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. In May this year, Trump signed three executive orders that made it easier to fire federal employees, limited the time and scope of collective bargaining negotiations, and severely curtailed the time spent and t

Estonian civil service chief to become Supreme Court justice

Estonia’s most senior civil servant, state secretary Heiki Loot, has been appointed to the Supreme Court after the country’s parliament (the Riigikogu) ratified his candidacy last week. Loot served as Secretary of State at the Government Office for the past 15 years, successfully working under four prime ministers and seven different governments. In May he announced that he would be stepping down, saying he wished to devote himself to work in the field of law. The Supreme Court is the highest
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