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Martha Lane Fox launches Government Digital Service

Kathleen Hall

The Cabinet Office has officially launched its Government Digital Service, in a move digital champion Martha Lane Fox said will transform the lives of millions.

The GDS was created on the basis of Martha Lane Fox’s recommendation to the Cabinet Office last year as a way of saving the government billions of pounds by moving to a digital-by-default model. It was formed in August 2011 and has now moved from spanning six teams across four buildings with various different systems across Whitehall to its own  base.

Speaking at the opening of GDS Lane Fox said: “The launch today is about bringing phenomenal people together, but don’t let’s forget the focus on people who perhaps see no benefit to the internet – but to which it can be fundamental in changing their lives.”

Brilliant digital services would lead to greater digital inclusion, said Lane Fox. “I’ve met so many people who have said the internet has helped to save their life, get a job, stay in touch with grandchildren,” she said. “For the most disadvantaged people in the country, government digital services is such a massive lever.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the audience that the government would seek an online-only model in digital services to maximise cost savings. “Where public services are capable of being delivered digitally online, they should be and only online.” Maude added that moving to digital only for some services would be the hardest challenge for departments as it involves turning off other channels.

“We need better and cheaper public services for the world we’re in. We’ve made a lot of steps and I’m grateful to Mike Bracken, director of digital at GDS, for leading the charge. There will be resistance going down this path, with people in government departments saying they require something unique and there’s no way anyone in the centre could possibly understand,” he said.

Moving services online should be used to automate bad processes rather than simply transferring clunky systems, he added.

“This is a big moment for all parts of government it’s about a revolution – coming together in one place under inspirational leadership and with some brilliant people to make that happen. I’m proud this is happening on my watch,” Francis Maude said.


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