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Government releases cost metrics on biggest public transactions

Kathleen Hall

The government has released data on the cost of its busiest transactional public services, as part of moves to measure the progress of its "digital by default" agenda.

The new Transactions Explorer tool lists the cost per transaction of the 44 biggest public interactions with government, such as visa applications; child benefit claims; Companies House account filing; driving test bookings; and student finance applications.

The 44 services generate more than a billion transactions each year - 88% of the total handled by central government - which cost £2bn a year to run, said the Cabinet Office in a statement. 

A key aim of the tool will be to demonstrate to departments the measurable business benefits of making transactional services digital, by pointing to the greater cost of non-digital transactions.

Mike Bracken, executive director for the Government Digital Service (GDS), said: “Greater visibility around service performance – including cost per transaction – is an essential step towards delivering digital services that are simpler, clearer and faster. We are working closely with departments to transform key public services and help them to become digital by default.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “This data sets a baseline for service performance – something the public can, and should, judge our progress on as we move to making all government services 'digital by default', as set out in the GDS and the departmental digital strategies published at the end of last year.”

The transactions tool was first released last year. In a blog post Richard Sargeant, director of performance and delivery at GDS said: “Services where transactions are completed using digital channels generally cost much less – for example, booking a driving test costs £6.62 by post, £4.11 by telephone, but just £0.22 online."

According to Bracken, central government received 693 million phone calls in 2011, with 150 million estimated to have been the result of failed or incomplete transactions. With each phone transaction costing £6.28 on average, a more user-centric approach to digitisation of such services could lead to a cost saving of nearly £942m per year, said Bracken. "The prize is huge," he said.


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