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Civil servants lack a clear understanding of what the Government Digital Service (GDS) is trying to achieve with its government-as-a-platform (GaaP) approach, a survey has revealed.
A report, published by Northgate Public Services, which questioned 2,100 civil servants, showed that 74% of them don’t understand or don’t know what GaaP is.
The GaaP strategy, which was heavily championed by former GDS boss Mike Bracken, aims to create common, shared technology platform services that will help to build redesigned digital services to be used across government, such as Gov.uk Pay, Gov.uk Notify and Gov.uk Verify – the latter of which went live in May 2016.
The Northgate report revealed 43% of civil servants haven’t even heard of GaaP, while 31% don’t fully understand it. However, it also revealed that those who do understand it, support the vision.
According to the report, 33% of civil servants are concerned their department or organisation won’t be able to “roll out its digital aims”.
Northgate director of services strategy Sue Holloway reckoned the biggest danger to GaaP is the lack of understanding.
“This is mirrored by a lack of confidence in implementation, with only 7% of respondents believing their organisation will achieve its digital goals. Those kinds of figures can only shackle ambitions and limit success,” she said.
“While the lack of understanding is worrying, there are powerful grace notes to the report. Those who do understand GaaP tend to be far more evangelical about the benefits, and they’re not confined to IT departments.”
A majority of civil servants surveyed said digital transformation could help their departments or organisations’ policy priorities, with 58% saying that automating more services was key.
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However, only 46% believed that digital inclusion was “being managed effectively” for staff.
“Some mentioned a lack of awareness about wider plans for digital inclusion, but also that the impact of digital on staff was either not addressed or not seen as a priority,” said the report.
GDS has worked hard to improve capabilities in government departments, helping to place a large number of new digital and tech leaders.
In 2015, Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock also promised “lunchtime coding clubs” to develop opportunities for “civil servants to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into data”.