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Government delays release of digital transformation strategy until new year

Sources say strategy is “ready to go”, but GDS is working with government departments to “embed” it further

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is to delay publishing its Government Transformation Strategy further, despite promising that it would be issued before Christmas.

The strategy is intended to “take digital transformation further than ever before” by prioritising an overhaul of the civil service, including breaking down silos, changing back-office processes and systems, and increasing collaboration.

According to Computer Weekly sources, the strategy document is “ready to go”, and no further changes are due to be made to the final version. However, Computer Weekly understands that GDS is working with departments and project teams further to fully “embed” the new strategy under director general Kevin Cunnington’s plan to make the rest of Whitehall more involved in digital transformation.

This follows Cunnington’s previous comments that “you have to expect [GDS] to change” and that ultimately “it is the departments who deliver”. 

A Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed that the strategy was being delayed and would be “published in due course”, but declined to comment further.

GDS has yet to publish a strategy since being awarded a £450m budget in the November 2015 government spending review. A strategy was due to be released before the end of last year, but was delayed several times, most recently because of the EU referendum. 

When Cunnington was named the new director general of GDS in August 2016, the strategy remained unpublished, and he worked on developing a new plan, which was promised to be published before Christmas.

A draft version of the strategy, seen by Computer Weekly, shows an ambitious “end-to-end transformation”, where potential problems could arise from the reliance on buy-in from Whitehall departments, several of which have previously been hostile to GDS’s involvement. In a recent interview, Cunnington admitted that relations had sometimes been “adversarial”.

Read more about the digital strategy

A background document, also seen by Computer Weekly, said that under the strategy, GDS would continue to provide “leadership, support and expertise” to departments as they worked to transform public services. The organisation would also scrutinise departmental plans on digital and technology spend.

“We will seek to bring earlier engagement on spending plans between departments and GDS, so that support can be provided at the most useful point,” the document said.

The document references a further report associated with the strategy, entitled The role of GDS, which suggests further details on the future of the organisation will be published along with the final strategy in the new year.

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