Government launches its Digital Service

By Stuart Sumner
12 Dec 2011 View Comments
Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament in London

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has launched the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The service will form the centre of digital government in the UK.

Further reading

Speaking at the launch event on Friday, Maude explained that the service will offer good value for money.

"The GDS will be the centre for digital government in the UK. It will transform the way people access government information by using digital technology to deliver services that put the user first," he said.

Executive director of GDS Mike Bracken wrote in his blog that cost savings were not the main driver of the project, but have been to be a welcome outcome.

"While our objective is the delivery of outstanding digital services created quickly based on user need and demand, the process frees up huge savings as a result," he wrote.

Although the Cabinet Office is now describing the GDS as "open for business", the project actually began in August this year.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office told Computing that the launch signifies the unification of the government's digital team.

"The event has been termed 'launch' as everyone working on the digital project is now in one office and operating as one team," said the spokesman.

In addition to benefits to UK citizens, the project aims to benefit the government itself in several ways.

Bracken claimed that collaboration across projects should now be easier.

"The identity team can now work with platform developers to devise future IDA [Identity and Access] services. We have already hosted colleagues from DWP, HMRC, MoJ/OPG and Constitutional Affairs, and continue to help them devise future digital services," said Bracken.

He added that the service is also attracting fresh talent to its ranks, and helping to up-skill existing workers.

"The mission at GDS is attractive to digital experts and public policy specialists alike and we are starting to see new skills emerging from within government," he said.

"Creating an environment for technology leaders to flourish is key for us."

Bracken drew attention to four digital projects which members of the team set up before the service was unified.

Firstly, E-petitions is a service created by GDS in six weeks, which has now seen nearly 3m people signing e-petitions at a cost of less than 1p per use. So far, six petitions have qualified to be debated in Parliament.

Secondly, 31m people visited Directgov in October. The site now hosts 95 per cent of all citizen-facing content.

Thirdly, the Tech City app was produced for the prime minister's visit to Tech City GDS, instead of a policy paper.

And finally, Re-set Identity Assurance has been created using £10m of funding. This has allowed the GDS programme to work collectively across government to deliver identity assurance solutions for digital transactions.

Bracken concluded by stating that further releases are in the pipeline and will be released next year, at a faster pace.

"Next year, we look forward to a faster pace for delivery. While our roadmap is not finalised, we can look forward to some major releases," he said.

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