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Louise Maynard-Atem, Deputy Director (Data, Insights and Fraud), Government Digital Service

Describe your career to date

 

As the Deputy Director for Data, Insights, and Fraud at the Government Digital Service, I am responsible for creating and delivering the department’s data strategy, for implementing our performance analysis and fraud detection capability on the GOV.UK One Login infrastructure, as well as leading multi-disciplinary teams of data and non-data professionals. The aim is to become a truly data-driven department, delivering public services that are underpinned by the wealth of data that the government holds on citizens. 

 
I am currently responsible for a number of teams totalling around eighty people, with skills ranging from data science, analytics, user research, fraud analysis, and software development. The teams are focused on building the performance analysis and fraud detection capability for the GOV.UK One Login programme, which will provide a single mechanism for citizens to prove and reuse their identity credentials when accessing all central government services. 
 

Being positioned at the centre of government, allows me to drive data best-practice across multiple departments and ensure that data is being used to solve major challenges for both government departments and citizens alike. Examples of this work include driving the mass migration from Google’s Universal Analytics to the new GA4, implementing a single data environment that will allow government departments to better understand the journeys that citizens are taking across the government digital estate, and creating a consistent and user-friendly way for citizens to prove their identity. 
 

I am also Research Director and Board member for the non-profit, Women in Identity. I coordinate the research efforts for the organisation, which centre on diversity and inclusion in the identity sector. I am currently working with partners to create a Code of Conduct for the digital identity industry, to ensure that the bias that exists in datasets (and is so often exacerbated by technology) does not exclude people from accessing services. This topic of inclusion (and how it can be supported through data) is a particular focus of governments as they look to leverage the opportunity of digital identity, and I have had the opportunity to work with the DCMS in the UK on their trust framework, as well as providing expert testimony to US Congress on the need to mandate inclusion in identity systems. 

 
Beyond my professional commitments, I am a passionate advocate for widening participation in data fields, particularly for under-represented groups. In my role as a tutor with the Access Project, I work with young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to increase their chances of getting into top universities. This gives me a great opportunity to show my students the broad range of academic routes into data fields, and the vast careers options available. I also volunteer as a mentor with the non-profit Black in Data, supporting people of colour at the early stages of their careers. I was also recently named as a governor at Withington Girls School (my alma mater), where I am focusing on creating a digital and data curriculum for the school, ensuring that pupils have the appropriate skills to take on data and technology roles in the future. 

 
In 2019 I was selected as one of the Twenty Women in Data; this was the start of an ongoing relationship with the Women in Data team which allowed me to become an advocate for and champion of increasing the numbers of women in data roles. 

 
In 2023, I was honoured to be selected as one of the DataIQ Top 100. This recognition has helped to boost my profile as a data leader both internally in GDS and in the external data market as well. 

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organisation?  

 

Across the civil service, there is a recognition that data skills are key for all who work to deliver public services, especially as these services are increasingly digital first. I am working closely with representatives across the Cabinet Office to deliver the One Big Thing initiative, where the focus for this year is for all civil servants to undertake a day’s worth of data training this autumn. This initiative is a mix of formal training courses, events, and practical seminars where civil servants will get the opportunity to understand how data is used to drive better service provision, and to boost their data literacy skills as the job market shifts around them. 

 
Within GDS, specifically my team and I, are working to create packages of training on web analytics data, how data sources are brought together to detect fraud, and how large language models could be used as an alternative interface for citizens interacting with the government. As well as training courses to increase the levels of data literacy across the organisation, I am implementing a data governance board for major programmes across GDS (starting with the GOV.UK One Login programme), where senior leaders are exposed to how data is being used to deliver key outcomes and economic benefits for both citizens and government departments. The work that others and I have been doing on the One Login programme recently won a Civil Service Award in the category of Best Use of Data, Science and Technology. 

What are the key challenges to your data function that you are facing as its leader?  

 

Data Skills and Talent: The lack of data skills is well documented, so the key challenge for me as a leader is ensuring that we are building a pipeline of data skills to ensure we have the supply to meet the growing demand. I am thinking about this in a number of ways; first around the early talent pipeline to ensure that people entering the job market are aware of data roles and want to build a career in the space. This involves working with young people (from school to university and apprenticeships) to educate them about the opportunities a data career has to offer. As well as focusing on the pipeline, I think it is important to upskill and re-skill the existing workforce and give them opportunities to work in data roles after gaining experiences elsewhere. 

 

Getting Data a seat at the top table: The importance of data is certainly growing; however it is not always recognised as a key component in driving the success of an organisation. If I think about my existing role in GDS, and ones that came before it at GBG and Experian, I was the first person to step into these senior roles, as they had not existed before. Across the Cabinet Office, my role is one of only a handful of data positions that exists at the senior civil service level. A key challenge for me is ensuring that data is consistently recognised as a key enabler to delivering better outcomes for citizens across government, and I believe this involves being able to clearly link good data strategy and best practice to positive outcomes for end-users. 

 

AI Usage, Ethics and Regulation:  The advent of generative AI and large language models present a great opportunity as well a sizeable risks and threats. I am currently leading on some work to understand how a chat interface could be used to provide citizens with vital information about accessing public services. There is significant political interest in this, as the UK seeks to become a generative AI perspective, but because of the newness of the technology, there are many things that need to be fully understood before this capability can be rolled out on a large scale. In another part of my role, I am responsible for counter-fraud capabilities across GDS, and the potential threat vectors that are introduced through the malicious use of AI are huge. I am keen to champion the use of AI, but need to temper this with the ethical concerns this may pose (particularly from a governmental and political angle). I believe appropriate regulation has a role to play in this space, and strongly believe we are at a criticism moment right now. 

Louise Maynard-Atem
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (EMEA)
  • 100 Brands 2024 (EMEA)