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The Government Digital Service’s (GDS) government as a platform (GaaP) services have the potential for use across the UK – but they need to be developed to fit public service needs.
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According to Socitm, the Local Digital Coalition – which took over from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) local digital programme and comprises 11 councils and national organisations – is well-placed to do the job.
The coalition was set up to realise a “joined-up local digital service” and has set out five exemplar projects for 2016.
In a briefing, Socitm said GaaP services can be used in the rest of public sector but, because they are being developed to fit central government needs: “Additional work is needed to make them suitable for application across the wider sphere of public services,” it said.
Martin Ferguson, Socitm’s director of policy and research, said that the coalition can play a “key role” in making public services digital.
“From a central-local public service perspective, a successful channel shift to online is crucial to achieving the savings required by the austerity programme, as well as bringing the full spectrum of public services into the modern digital age,” he said.
“Reusability of well-designed, fit-for-purpose service platforms is critical to realising this vision on a big scale.”
Socitm argued that, before these services can be used in public services, there are a series of questions that need to be worked through – such as who will pay for the services.
“For example, government departments currently do not have to pay for Gov.uk Notify usage that falls within a pre-determined allowance, since this avoids the bureaucratic costs of cross-charging and also encourages take up,” Socitm said.
Local government and third-sector organisations would need to know if they could get a subsidised usage allowance to take up services, the organisation said.
The government’s identity assurance platform, Gov.uk Verify is currently in the public beta-stage, but due to go live shortly. However, Socitm said children and elderly people may find it “difficult to gain authentication” under the current arrangements.
In an interview with Computer Weekly in April 2016, Verify programme director Janet Hughes said the programme is continuously working to refine and improve the platform; and that, once it’s live, the team will start looking at how to make Verify available more broadly.