Government vows ‘digital by default’ public services standard by April 2014

By Peter Gothard
06 Nov 2012 View Comments
Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament in London

The government has published its Digital Strategy document this morning, promising to improve online experiences for service users, and move rapidly towards "digital by default" access channels to replace telephone and in-person transactions.

The report states that this action will save between £1.7bn and £1.8bn per year, most of which it attributes to the unnecessary cost of phone calls, or administration costs in face to face contact, and will take advantage of a UK population that is already 82 per cent online.

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The report describes how out of 650 possible online transactional services, only "a handful" of services see a "significant majority of people" use an available online option. The report says only 46 per cent of people who are online have carried out a government transaction digitally.

To reach a "digital by default" standard by April 2014, the government lays out several targets. Several points are vague, including the need to "improve leadership" in digital services or develop the digital capability of departments "to the right level". "Empowered" service managers will be in place in major departments by March 2015, the report says.

There is also a promise to provide "additional support" for the 18 per cent of UK citizens who are still not online, by way of a promotional and educational scheme named "Assisted Digital".

However, the government also says it is committed to a technical redesign of how its seven major departments, including HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Transport and the Department for Work and Pensions, carry out their digital transactions.

Further, the government says it will have all 24 of its major departments plugged into the government's centralised services and information site,, by March 2013, with "agency and arm's length bodies" joining them by March 2014.

The government also acknowledges the potential of mobile devices in accessing government services, recognising that 56 per cent of people in the UK have internet-ready phones, and that "banking industry experience" points to "simple straightforward transactions" as being key to putting mobile internet access to good use in its plans.

Meanwhile, small and medium-sized enterprises will benefit from a government push to broaden the range of "those tendering to supply digital services".

The reports says all digital services will "will undergo a formal review ahead of launch", after which they will be "continually monitored" by service owners.

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