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GDS takes over DWP Digital Academy and gets ‘national presence’

More changes ahead for Government Digital Service as Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer tells staff they will be moving to east London as the organisation takes over the DWP Digital Academy

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer made his first official visit to the Government Digital Service (GDS) today (15 September) and told staff they would be moving from the organisation’s home in Aviation House, Holborn to Aldgate, east London.

The new location would allow GDS to create an expanded digital hub and headquarters, said Gummer.

The minister also announced that GDS would take over the DWP Digital Academy, which was originally set up by Kevin Cunnington, GDS’s director general, when he was at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The academy aims to spread digital skills and educate non-digital workers about what digital transformation means. GDS already has responsibility for developing skills across government, but Gummer said the organisation would now be given “a real national presence for the very first time”.

“These are significant moments, not just for GDS and the Cabinet Office, but for the millions of people who use government services every day,” he said. 

“Our message is clear – we are working hard to make life easier for the people of the UK. We want our services to be simple, easy and efficient. I am here today to reaffirm that commitment.” 

The long-awaited government digital transformation strategy would also be updated to take Brexit into account and match GDS’s “new remit”, said Gummer.  

New GDS boss Cunnington said: “We have a superb team and I want our UK strategy to not only reflect the bold ambition that we have across government, but the new challenges that now face us. We will have an updated and complete digital transformation strategy before the end of the year.”

He said GDS’s work would increasingly focus on “transformation – not just digital”. 

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These are the latest in a long line of changes for GDS this summer. Last month, the then head of GDS, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, was replaced by Cunnington after only nine months in the job.

At the time, sources suggested to Computer Weekly that Cunnington’s appointment was a compromise to ease relations between government departments and GDS. 

Shortly after Foreshew-Cain’s departure, Verify boss and head of strategy and policy Janet Hughes also left.

Computer Weekly has also learned that Cunnington has brought in several of his senior digital team members from the DWP to help him develop the GDS plan.

Gummer also announced that the payments platform Pay, which aims to provide a standardised way for public services to receive electronic payments, has taken its first real payment and will be rolled out this autumn.

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