Awarded to Viapontica AI

Start date: Monday 4 October 2021
Value: £62,000
Company size: SME
The National Archives UK (TNA)

Discovery and Alpha for an Access Service for Digital Records at The National Archives.

9 Incomplete applications

7 SME, 2 large

29 Completed applications

27 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Wednesday 18 August 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 25 August 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 1 September 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Supply of resource: the off-payroll rules will apply to any workers engaged through a qualifying intermediary, such as their own limited company
Summary of the work
We are looking for an experienced multidisciplinary team to work with us to undertake a user-focused Discovery to Alpha project exploring how to provide access to digital records for Government users, incorporating the concept of gradating public access to non-sensitive digital records. Full brief available at:
Latest start date
Monday 13 September 2021
Expected contract length
Initial 10 weeks to deliver Discovery phase, option to extend for further 3 months to deliver Alpha
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
The National Archives UK (TNA)
Budget range
£82,500k for the initial 10-week Discovery with an option to extend for a further 3 months for up to £148,500 to deliver the Alpha.

About the work

Why the work is being done
The National Archives (TNA) collects, preserves and provides access to the records of UK government. Increasingly these are digital records. We do not currently have an effective or sustainable access service for digital records; this is the focus of this Discovery and Alpha.
We wish to understand how to provide access to archived records back to the Government departments who originally created them. We also need to consider how we manage the risks in providing access to the public.
There are many assumptions we need to test e.g. Is there a need for an access service for digital records? Will better access to their archived records encourage departments to transfer earlier/more often/in greater volume?
Discovery: To inform this work, we want to run user research to help us understand the experiences and needs of our Government users.
Alpha: Based on the outcomes from Discovery, create and test a series of low or high-fidelity interfaces/wireframes for selected risky/complex user journeys through an end-to-end access service. Investigate some open technical and architectural questions about how an access service would interact with existing TNA systems and evaluate and recommend what approach to take to define gradated access rules.
Problem to be solved
Currently, Government users can access non-sensitive digital records via Discovery ( our online public access catalogue - primarily designed for paper collections), but they must come on-site to view sensitive digital records in an ‘invigilation room’. This is not scalable and doesn’t offer a good user experience, but we need to test this assumption with Government users.
In addition, as stated in TNA’s digital strategy (

“Opening a record and publishing a record are very different acts. The new presentation system needs to gradate access to help manage presentation risks. We need the ability to flexibly decide what is available to index by search engines, what is on the web, what is adapted, what is only available on site.”

Public access to records at TNA is governed by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Records are available to all unless they are covered by one or more FOI exemptions (exemptions from disclosure). We do not yet know how we should provide access to non-sensitive digital records and need to test our assumptions in this area: e.g. Would implementing a gradated access/publication service reduce risk and encourage departments to transfer digital records earlier or in greater volume?
Who the users are and what they need to do
The main users are:

Government records teams who have transferred born-digital records to TNA or are preparing to do so. Most will have transferred paper records in the past.
Internal TNA teams that manage access to TNA’s current collection.

We need to find out:

How do users currently access their transferred digital records? For those who only access paper records, how will their needs change when they move to digital?
Is ease of access to records a factor in deciding when to transfer them to TNA?
How often do departments anticipate requiring access?
What are the different scenarios that require access to records?
Who in the department needs access?
Do they need to authorise access for others within or outside their organisation?
What format do they need to view the records in – original, an easy-access HTML version, something else?
Do they need the ability to view or also to download?
How do they need to search/navigate their records?
How do they view the risks involved in giving public access to non-sensitive digital records over the web?
What do they think of the concept of gradating access to non-sensitive records?
What do they think of choosing specific publication formats?
Early market engagement
Technical Feasibility study into an Attribute Based Access Control model carried out in partnership with an external specialist in 2019.
Any work that’s already been done
Internal user workshops to explore needs, hopes and fears for the service from the perspective of our users, the business, technology and the records (2017-2018).
Initial workshop with government records teams (2019).
Technical feasibility study on an Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC) model for gradating access. The model makes access decisions based on attributes of the user, resource requested, action (view/download/bulk request) and user’s location. A small-scale prototype decision engine was developed and can be demonstrated (2019).
Existing team
The supplier’s team will deliver the work. A full-time service owner who has experience of the problem space, the wider context, and knowledge of Government users will be the main contact for the supplier and will work closely with them on this outcome. Some ad-hoc additional support will be available from senior stakeholders, technical architect and data engineer and in house product development teams working on the transfer and preservation services at TNA.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Remote. Occasional visits to the site at Kew, West London, will be required. All expenses must be included in the quoted rate, expenses cannot be claimed separately.
Working arrangements
The National Archives’ staff will be available during UK 9am-5pm working day. The service owner will work closely with the supplier attending stand-ups, sprint planning meetings, etc. The supplier will provide their own equipment and technology and will be given access to our organisational GitHub and Slack resources as appropriate. The supplier will work in accordance with agile methodologies to scope, plan, and deliver the work incrementally, with regular active communication, and will conduct ‘show and tell’ sessions internally and externally with users to demonstrate progress. Regular meetings will take place via Microsoft Teams with Slack available for quick communication.
Security clearance
Baseline clearance will be required (BPSS)

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Proven experience of planning and carrying out remote user research using multiple techniques including interviews and structured conversations, and collaborative analysis and synthesis workshops
  • Be able to build relationships demonstrating the value of user research in environments of low awareness of user centred design
  • Proven expertise in iteratively, prototyping and designing services (including use of high and low fidelity prototypes) which meet user needs
  • Experience of service design to meet GDS standards for usability and accessibility and WAGC 2.1 compliance
  • Knowledge and awareness of how attribute-based control systems can affect user experience
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Experience working on projects that focus on publication of data-rich information
  • Experience of working in contexts with complex security and data requirements

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Explain how you would approach research of user needs within multiple Government organisations
  • Outline your proposed approach to conducting the Alpha and Discovery phases in this outcome
  • Describe the team and the mix of skills they will employ to deliver our outcome
  • Give at least two case studies that show your recent experience of planning and carrying out appropriate user research and explain how your insights informed what happened next
  • Give examples of your ability to work in an agile, iterative manner and evidence of successfully completing GDS Service Assessments
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work collaboratively as ‘one team’ with our team
  • Be transparent, open and honest
  • Be curious, creative and constructively challenge pre-conceptions
  • Share knowledge and experience with our team
  • Be comfortable in advocating for agile practises, user centred and inclusive, accessible design
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. We understand the total budget for both Alpha and Beta is £82,500 + £148,500 = £231,000. Is this right?
Yes this is correct.
2. What does your procurement process/timeline look like, bearing in mind that your submission deadline is the 1st of September and your latest start date is 13th September?
13 September 2021 is our preferred start date. Depending on the number of submissions received, we hope to complete our initial evaluation by the end of 3 September 2021. We may then elect to hold interviews/information sessions with shortlisted suppliers on or around 7 September 2021; by the end of that day, we may be able to make an award decision or decide that written proposals are required. If the latter, the 13 September 2021 start date may slip.
3. The full brief mentions the potential use of machine learning to help reviewing the sensitivity of documents. Does the supplier need a good understanding of ML technologies? Or is an understanding of the overall concept and of the implications of their use sufficient?
The latter. The use of ML to aid review of documents is in its infancy but it’s a factor in the overall risk involved for departments when reviewing and transferring digital records to TNA, and how we then provide access to digital records.
4. To get an idea of the level of involvement of NA stakeholders in the course of the project, how many stakeholders from the NA would be available for participating in collaborative analysis and synthesis workshops? How much time would they dedicate the project?
Approximately 15 TNA stakeholders would be available for interviews and workshops. They could donate approximately 2 hours each to the project, maybe longer. They will be willing to do so but we will need to be flexible and plan ahead to get time in their diaries.
5. Once you have shortlisted suppliers, what is the timeline for the next stage (written proposal & presentation)?
13 September 2021 is our preferred start date. Depending on the number of submissions received, we hope to complete our initial evaluation by the end of 3 September 2021. We may then elect to hold interviews/information sessions with shortlisted suppliers on or around 7 September 2021; by the end of that day, we may be able to make an award decision or decide that written proposals are required. If the latter, the 13 September 2021 start date may slip.
6. When do you expect to award this opportunity?
Please see answers to previous questions relating to the procurement timetable. As award decision will be made as soon as possible, however we acknowledge that the latest start date as advertised may slip.
7. Will there be an opportunity to have a meeting with you to discuss details of the project if we are shortlisted for this opportunity?
8. Has a decision been made as to whether this would sit on Azure or AWS or another Public Cloud Service Provider?
No decision has been made.
9. Could you elaborate on what projects that focus on publication of data-rich information means to TNA please?
Currently TNA publishes metadata about records in the form of a catalogue entry made up of a number of fields. We also may publish the records themselves as digital objects. If you take for example, a dataset, which may be consider one record, then the record itself is made up of data too.
10. Did a 3rd party help deliver the technical feasibility study and small-scale prototype, and if so are you able to share who that was?
This was a DOS opportunity, published here where you can see our requirements and the award details, Additional details of the awarded supplier can be found here
11. Would winning the bid preclude our technologies being selected for the solution?