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The Government Digital Service (GDS) has allocated a team to put together a business case together for joined-up government services.
The discovery exercise started in February 2020 and is running through to March 2020. It includes a gathering information about the impact and cost of disjointed citizen offerings, with evidence from ongoing user research interviews and data analysis.
This is part of the work around setting the GDS’s 2030 Vision for Digital, Data, and Technology (DDaT). According to the summary of the prototype, the goal is to help solve the issue of forcing users to repeat steps across the various digital interactions across the approximately 4,000 services the government provides.
It also noted that although this could theoretically reduce repetition, it wouldn’t be feasible or advisable for GDS centralise the digital services of other government organisations under a different Gov.uk architecture. As as a result, GDS “must start solving this common problem for government sooner rather than later”.
Examples provided in the discovery exercise include preparing to raise a child – a process that requires citizens to use three services to plan parental leave – as well as applying for benefits and tax credits.
This process requires users to enter a number of repeated questions such as full names, employers names, due data and household income; having to do this multiple times equates to wasted minutes in productivity from parents and wasted taxpayer money, and therefore creates a significant economic impact.
Beyond the economic cost, disjointed services mean users get stuck, as government questions are not properly understood by users and forms are confusing. The lack of an omnichannel approach to services, such as inability to switch a process easily from online to a call centre, are among the issues observed in relation to the current set-up.
As more services go online, the GDS states in the argumentation around the need for service design and technology standards in solving the issue that repetition is much harder to avoid once a digital service moves past the alpha stage of development, as teams make longer-lasting technology choices. A user-centred approach is needed to solve the issue across government, with external and internal users at the core of future work.
However, organisations struggle to share privately held data for reasons such as different availability and consistency requirements at different organisations, as well as difficulties around ensuring alignment and privacy concerns and data protection regulations frequently cited by civil servants.
The work on joining up government services follows the agreement of the majority of Whitehall departments to share web analytics data with GDS as part of plans to gather data centrally on the performance of Gov.uk to offer more joined-up services by better understanding what information users want.
The plans were greeted with controversy after it emerged that government wanted to combine the anonymous web analytics with personal data from GDS’s Verify digital identity system to send Brexit messaging to citizens through government websites. The Cabinet Office later insisted there was “nothing sinister” about the project.