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Parts of Whitehall will no longer exist by 2030, says Stephen Foreshew-Cain

By 2030, parts of Whitehall will no longer exist, policy making will change and digital government will be the norm, predicts government digital chief Stephen Foreshew-Cain

Looking ahead to 2030, Government Digital Service (GDS) boss Stephen Foreshew-Cain aims for agile working to be adopted across government.

Speaking at the TechUK PS2030 conference, Foreshew-Cain outlined his vision for digital government in 2030.

He said while predicting the future is a “bold activity”, he envisioned “some parts of Whitehall that exist today won’t exist” by 2030, and silos will be a thing of the past.

According to Foreshew-Cain, government will be simpler, smaller and more agile.

He also believes civil service will have gone through its biggest change since the Trevelyan report in 1854, which formed the foundations of today’s civil service.

“When I think of government in 2030, I think about what we will choose to actively make it,” he said.

“By then, we should be seeing the biggest change to civil service since its creation and Trevelyan’s report. The civil service we have today hasn’t fundamentally changed since then and is no longer fit for the present time.”

Foreshew-Cain said the work GDS is doing, such as its government-as-a-platform (GaaP) programme, will form the basis for the future of digital government and the standards for how the service looks. 

“Everything will be made using interconnected building components. There will be software platforms, standards and patters, services and skills that services and departments can simply plug into when they need to,” he said.

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However, the government needs to get to grips with the rapid pace of technological developments to keep up.

“We have to work together to accelerate progress. If not, the dream of a digital public sector will slip from our grasp,” he said.

He added that what technologies will be important and have an impact on our lives is “mostly unknowable”, and the government needs to be able to respond quickly to developments.

“Everything will change constantly at an accelerated pace of change. We know the change will be inevitable and unavoidable, and it will happen whether the government wants it to or not,” he said.

“What’s going to matter is how dynamic and responsive government’s going to be in the face of that change.”

Agile, clear and fast

Foreshew-Cain said he envisions a future where agile working is the norm and government services and policies are shaped around what the users need.

“I will know I’m in 2030 when policy making will be service design, and the designing of services will shape policy. There won’t be any new ideas that don’t have implementation factored into their thinking,” he said.

“By 2030, policy making will be minimally designed and built as a framework that allows for changes and feedback.”

He added that the way laws are made will also need to change, and legislation will actively support service delivery and not constrain it.

“[By 2030] when you need to deal with government, your heart won’t sink. You won’t be trapped in misery. Whatever you need to do, it will be simple, clear, available and fast,” he said.

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