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Government Digital Service sets out three-year strategy

The new GDS strategy up to 2024 includes a focus on making Gov.uk a single, trusted source of information, joining up services, and creating a pan-government digital identity solution

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Computer Weekly: A new three-year plan for digital government

Government Digital Service (GDS) CEO Tom Read has set out a three-year strategy for the organisation, with five missions aiming to ensure users get the most out of online public services.

In a blog post, launching the strategy, Read said that GDS is “no longer in startup mode”.

“Of our circa £90m budget this year and with more than 800 people, around 60% are needed to support our existing platforms, services and content. This includes ensuring Gov.uk, which is a vital resource for millions of citizens, is available, reliable and has up to date information,” Read said.

“We therefore have to be selective about where we focus our people, skills and money to make the most difference to the most users of government services.”

Read sets out three categories to enable this, including services that hide the complexity of government structures for the users, services that can only be delivered by the centre, and building services once.

The strategy focuses on five missions over the next three years. The first is to ensure Gov.uk is the single and trusted online destination for government information. This includes continuing to iterate the design and operation of key features, look at how information can be reached where users are, and ensuring tools provided to civil servants are simple and clear to use.

Another mission is to join up services, building Gov.uk account functionality, creating a single sign-on, map and connect data around individuals and agree on data sharing arrangements with departments.

The third mission is to create a new digital identity system, aiming to replace the government’s flagship Gov.uk Verify system.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the government is making another attempt to create a common digital identity system to be used across all online public services, mandating that departments comply.

Read said that most “government services' existing login and digital identity solutions have been designed, developed and operated in departmental silos, with a focus only on meeting each department's needs. For users, this is a confusing and frustrating picture; for government, this is expensive and leaves the door open for fraud,” he added.

“We will build on what we have learned from Gov.uk Verify and create a new way for users to sign-on to services from any department, and confirm their identity.”

Read added that new services will be built in partnership with other government departments, and that GDS will “design in simplicity and relentlessly test with users”, and that existing services will only be integrated or turned off when the new service has been “tested thoroughly”.

The strategy also focuses on common tools and services, and joined-up data across departments.

Read said that to deliver any of the missions “we need to put data right at the heart of our strategic approach”.

“That means being able to comprehensively understand how people interact with the government online, and being able to use data about people and government (with permission) to provide the level of service that they expect,” he said.

Together with the newly created Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO), GDS will work to explore an events brokerage service to allow departments to share information that would be good for other parts of government to know, create a cross-government reference architecture, and build insight capability into how people interact with the government online.

Read added that GDS is going to continue champion the needs of the user “above all else”  and work in close partnership with other parts of government.

He said that GDS won’t be explicitly focus on running another “big exemplar programme for individual transactional services: most departments and agencies are more than capable of doing these themselves with the right funding and support” or end-user technology for civil servants.

“This strategy is a moment in time, and we fully expect it to change and adapt based on what we discover. Some of this work covers uncharted territory, and we may find there is limited value in what we’re building. If so, we will stop and focus on something else,” he said.

Read more about GDS

  • Paul Willmott, Joanna Davinson and Tom Read talk about establishing a digital, data and technology sub-board, plans to hire a chief technology officer and a chief data officer, and a five-year plan for the Government Digital Service.
  • GDS role is offering up to £85,000 a year and includes being responsible for developing the Gov.uk programme as government aims to make it a platform for content, rather than just a publishing system.
  • The new GDS director for identity assurance will be focused on efforts to deliver a single digital identity system for online public services.

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