Government could save £1.8bn digitising transactions

Government Digital Service hopes to save £1.8bn per year moving to online services, according to draft Digital Strategy seen by Computer Weekly.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) estimates it will save £1.8bn per year moving offline services  to digital channels, according to a copy of its draft Digital Strategy seen by Computer Weekly.

The focus of the strategy is on transactional government services – the area where a move to "digital by default" is expected to yield the most savings for the public sector.

However, the draft document is not yet government policy, with the final strategy expected to be published tomorrow (Tuesday 6 November).

The draft strategy document seen by Computer Weekly cited £14.70 as the average cost to government from an hour-long transaction with a citizen, but said if one hour could be saved by digitising every offline transaction, the savings would amount to £1.8bn.

The figures do not include the cost of moving to digital, but also do not include additional savings that could be made through fundamental service redesign or back-end technology changes, it said.

All departments running services with more than 100,000 transactions per year are to undertake an end-to-end service redesign as part of the push toward digital transactions, according to the document. This will include the seven departments with most transactions, who will start to redesign three exemplar services each by April 2013 and implement them by March 2015.

All new or redesigned transactional services going live after April 2013 are to meet a new digital by default service standard. No new or redesigned service will go live unless they meet this standard.

The standards will require digital services to be iterated at least monthly. They will also offer APIs (application programming interfaces), allowing third parties and other departments to integrate other services and use common technology platforms, and will be designed to work on a range of web-enabled devices, including mobile phones.

Service managers will be appointed to oversee service redesign for transactions above the 100,000 threshold, and ensure they adhere to the new standards. These are not technical IT posts, nor are they confined to running a website, said the document.

By December 2012, each department will publish their own departmental digital strategy explaining what actions they will take to contribute to the overall strategy.

Their actions will be included in business plans for the next financial year and provide a framework for continuing improvements in services.

The move comes as the publishing activities of 24 departments are due to migrate onto the central GOV.UK website by March 2013.

By March 2014, the information publishing aspects of all departments, agencies and arms-length bodies' websites, unless granted exemption, will also transfer to GOV.UK. Government has already replaced its main information services website Directgov and Business Link with GOV.UK.

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