Kaggle is an online community of data scientists and machine learners, owned by Google LLC. It offers an environment where users can find and publish datasets, explore and build models in a web-based data-science environment, work with other data scientists and machine learning engineers, and enter competitors to solve data science challenges.
The main feature of Kaggle is the competitions they run, paid competitors. It gives users the opportunity to team up and compete to win prize money. Companies involved in healthcare, investment, AI etc, are able to launch data science problems and offer a cash prize if that they are solved. Within each competition there is a description of the data science problem and rules of the competition and time duration. There is a similar model within the US government called challenge.gov, here, members of the public compete to help the US government solve problems big and small. Similar to Kaggle, these are paid challenges.
Within the UK government we have the Digital Marketplace. A model within this marketplace is the DOS3 framework, which allows for a Government department to find specific technology or people for digital projects in the public sector, this can include: digital outcomes, digital specialists, user research studios and user research participants. The government departments are required to write their 'requirements' to tell suppliers about a situation/problem and they'll propose a solution that meets those needs. You can require a specialists or a team of specialists to work on different projects in a particular program. Included in the proposal, the department must consider; the funds to buy the service, user needs, project's technical requirements, size of the project, stage the project is at and the criteria you'll base your choice on. A similar approach to the likes of Kaggle and Challenge.gov however each company that provides the services to the likes of DOS3 and G-cloud 10 framework must apply to be on the Digital Marketplace. The companies can then bid on a particular project, and provide the necessary paperwork to prove they have the capabilities to carry it out.
In 2017, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) hosted a data science competition on Kaggle and it attracted over 5,000 submitted solutions equating to over £2.5m of research. Commenting on the competition Dstl's Phil Gibson said;
"The competition has been very well received by the Kaggle community, It just goes to show that the 'Kagglers' deserve their reputation for coming-up with exciting, innovative and thought provoking solutions. The fantastic response shows that crowdsourcing solutions can be an invaluable tool in tackling complex challenges - helping us secure the nation's defence, security and prosperity."
This was the first time a UK Government department had worked with Kaggle. This partnership helped to identify novel methods to evaluate large, complex data sets, helping analysts evaluate information more quickly, accurately and effectively.
The question is, is it possible to have a public procurement platform for the Government when acquiring specialist skills within the IT industry. Instead of a company requiring to be registered on the Digital Marketplace there is a much less formal and time consuming procedure allowing any company or individual to register on a Kaggle like platform and for departments to post their competitions or challenges there. The benefit of having this community like Kaggle is that you are discovering and attracting talent that otherwise may not be available within the Digital Marketplace. Phil Gibson had commented that they made a 7 fold return on the cost of running the competition, so this could be a more cost efficient scheme. Having an online community like Kaggle allows the government to innovate. By allowing companies/individuals to work on your problem you are reaching a much larger audience, offering the most complex, unique solutions that otherwise may not have been available.
Companies today face ever-increasing pressure to innovate in order to remain competitive and need to pursue comparatively unconventional means for discovering and attracting new talent in order to maintain their edge. The same goes for the government. By offering a seamless process that gets rids of the middle man associated with the Digital Marketplace, this process is sped up. Of course the issue of security comes into question but if the American government are happy enough to experiment with it, why shouldn't the UK?
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Topics: Public Sector, Government, Machine learning, DOS3, Data science