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GDS payments platform Pay to start taking real payments

GDS launches beta version of payment system that aims to provide standardised electronic payments for public services

The Government Digital Service’s (GDS) payments platform is to begin taking real payments, as it launches the beta phase of the project.

As part of its government-as-a-platform (GaaP) strategy, GDS began work earlier in 2015 to create a payments platform that would provide a standardised way for public services to receive electronic payments, such as those made by credit or debit cards, or PayPal.  

The project, now named Pay, will begin taking online payments for some transactions in four government departments – Companies House, the Environment Agency, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice – GDS payments platform product manager Till Wirth wrote in a blog post.

At the moment, every service that requires users to pay, such as buying a passport, has to use its own system. The prototype for the common payments platform was tested with citizens using services at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Insolvency Service.

“A cross-government platform can’t be developed in isolation. It needs collaboration, business process analysis and lots of user research,” wrote Wirth. “We’ve already talked with many of our colleagues across government to find out how they currently take payments and how that could be improved.

“In the coming weeks we’ll collaborate with these partners to make sure we fully understand the needs of citizens using the payments service and the civil servants administering the payments,” he continued.

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GDS is also beginning to explore user needs associated with direct debit payments. The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency recently implemented direct debit and is helping GDS “kick off the research”, Wirth wrote.

The development work for a direct debit payment method will begin early in 2016.

The GaaP strategy aims to develop a series of standard digital platforms for common functions used across government, avoiding duplication and unnecessary costs.

In his exit interview with Computer Weekly, former GDS chief Mike Bracken pointed to a list of at least 25 other common services that are needed by multiple departments which currently do their own thing.

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