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Single departmental plans affirm commitment to GaaP

All government departments have set out their delivery plans for the next five years, showing commitment to government as a platform

All government departments have published their single departmental plans, setting out their priorities over the course of this parliament.

The departmental plans showed commitment to the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) government-as-a-platform (GaaP) strategy. The aim of GaaP is to deliver a core infrastructure consisting of shared digital systems and processes, which can be used across government.

The departments promised to work on “developing digital systems that meet common standards set by GDS, and utilise cross government platforms such as Verify, Pay or Notify as part of departmental digital services wherever this demonstrates the best value for money for government”.

At the annual GDS Sprint event on 11 February 2016, GDS chief executive Stephen Foreshew-Cain told the audience that the centre will challenge and support departments to run their own digital transformation programmes, rather than building them.

Some departments are already in the midst of digitising services, such as the Home Office.

In its departmental plan, the Home Office said it’s rolling out user-friendly interfaces and channels and is working on standardising and automate business processes “to improve the efficiency of services and provide customers easy access through modern digital channels”.

It will also continue to work with the Cabinet Office and other departments to develop a series of tools and services to support efficiency.

“This includes the single operating platform for enhanced human resources and finance capabilities at a reduced cost, and a shared business intelligence service to maintain and improve on the quality of management information,” the plan said.

E-Borders programme not mentioned in plans

However, there was no mention of the department’s e-Borders programme and its successors, which will have cost the taxpayer £1.1bn by 2019. The long-standing, troubled programme to digitise and integrate UK border systems has been heavily criticised by both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it’s working to digitise reporting of the movement of goods and passengers at the UK Border, and it would use innovative technologies to improve the transport networks and deliver flexible services for less money.

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“New technology will mean rail journeys where you pay with a smart ticket and can use Wi-Fi and mobile phones more easily,” the DfT plan said.

“We are investing in digital signalling on the railways so we can run more services and save money in the long run.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), led by digital minister Ed Vaizey, claims to be “leading the digital revolution” to make the UK the most “competitive and innovative market in the world”. Its plans said it’s working to deliver broadband across the UK and is also looking at technologies such as 5G.

In December 2015, DCMS announced it would roll out subsidised satellite broadband around the UK to service the needs of around 300,000 homes and businesses in remote areas of the country that currently cannot obtain a 2Mbps service. 

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Government Digital Service’s (GDS) could be a damp squib if it does not have the power correct resources or intellectual capacity to deliver a successful template. The current services placed on line have failed not aligning to capability and changing market place. A good example of this is portal services which contain no phone support and exclude blind people from accessing any services whatsoever. The proposal to place health and social care online was truly destroyed when services delivered to the blind and seriously ill could not be implemented due to cuts in the DWP for the disabled and ill meant that they could not longer afford any internet device or broad band connection. The latest announcement by the government security services to try and fund escalating storage costs by increasing broad band connections excludes even more people targeted by health and social care from having access to any government services. While the inland revenue is resisting giving 100 % VAT relief on computer devices and services for the blind excluding them from government services on line. There are minority political groups lobbying to place filters or barriers excluding access for blind and visually challenged people which further escalates costs to government. The further proposals to upgrade broad band speeds in the UK combined with policies of storage of data threatens to overwhelm government with a projected cost by 2022 of 10 billion a year. Further comments by industry commentators point to a ongoing technology race in the IT sector. Experience has shown that the government is not likely to have a fully functioning system before 2022 by which time the original investments in 2017-18 may have to start a refresh cycle at even more cost. The question needs to be asked if any savings can be made and how much extra costs will be incurred by such a random proposition in government in a time of austerity ?