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13.02.17

Delayed strategy to take ‘whole-government approach’ to digital

The government has revealed its delayed digital transformation strategy which sets out its plan to establish a “whole-government approach” to transformation across the public sector by 2020. Josh Mines reports.

The report outlined key goals for a “digitally enabled transformation”, that will look to transform citizen-facing services and utilise digital technology in order to deliver ‘digital by default’ services more efficiently.  

Central to the updated strategy is the need to use the internet and digital technology to better understand what citizens need, and enable services to be delivered more efficiently by going direct to users online.

The plans also made reference to making better use of GOV.UK for services that span departmental boundaries or are provided by third parties, which could include local government or outsourced services.

The document says: “One of the most powerful enablers of transformation in the early 21st century is to adopt the tools, techniques, technology and approaches of the internet age. This is what we define as ‘digital’. It is a cultural change as well as a technical one.

“As a government, we are here to further the prosperity and security of the UK, to serve the citizen and to build on our position as a world-leading provider of public services. The digital revolution kick-started by Government Digital Service in 2010 has seen us make great strides. However, there is much more we still need to do.

“We must reflect our increased experience and understanding. The government’s approach to digital must be comprehensive and we must expand our focus, underlined by the creation of new senior roles with a wider government mandate.”

The strategy sets out five pillars for the future direction of government:

  1. Create shared platforms, components and reusable business capabilities: continuing with government as a platform, reducing duplication, cost and increasing efficiency across government.
  2. Make better use of data: ensuring that government data is properly managed, protected and (where non-sensitive) made available and shared effectively. To accelerate the transformation of government, and ensure we retain public trust and confidence in our use of data, we will appoint a new Chief Data Officer for government.
  3. Business Transformation: developing end-to-end services that meet the needs of their users across all channels, in coordination with a fundamental rethink of back-office operations.
  4. Grow the Right People, Culture and Skills: continuing to ensure that we have the right people, with the right skills and training, employed in the right place working in the right way.
  5. Build better tools, processes and governance for civil servants: transforming the inside of the Civil Service to become an organisation that is digital by default.

The strategy noted that it will build on the “government as a platform” concept, ensuring it makes greater reuse of platforms and components across government. However, last year a survey of 2,000 civil servants found that 74% don’t fully understand the £450m programme to join up government digital services.

In a foreword to the document written by minister for the cabinet and paymaster general Ben Gummer stated: “Government has been slow to use the transformative potential of digital technology to change the way it does business. It is at a double disadvantage, therefore: big and slow.

“In a world where people rightly expect the government to deliver public services effectively and at speed, that makes the challenge more daunting still.”

This transformation strategy is focused on UK central government, as other parts of the public sector like local government, health, police, parliament and devolved administrations have their own governance.

Although the Cabinet Office said there remains, however, much “we can do to collaborate across sectors to meet common needs in the interest of delivering better services to users – for example, ensuring seamless end-to-end citizen journeys, sharing data and using common platforms”.

As reported by PSE, councils are making headway with regards to digital change especially through the advent of the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS).

Launched by LocalGov Digital in April 2016, the LGDSS suggests a common approach to creating good-quality, user-centred digital services. 

Paul Ward, head of ICT strategy, systems and development for Coventry City Council, explains how the local authority is using the LGDSS to deliver more user-friendly services.

And Natalie Taylor, senior manager for Digital Transformation, at London City Hall, gave us an update on the changes taking place at the Greater London Authority (GLA) and how it is implementing the LGDSS.

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