Francis Maude: 'If it can be done online, it should only be done online'

By Danny Palmer
24 Jul 2014 View Comments
Minister of the Cabinet Office Francis Maude

If a government service can be provided online, rather than in person, by post or over the phone, then it should be delivered online, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has declared.

Maude made the remarks as part of his keynote speech at the Reform Conference, entitled The Private Sector and Public Services. It falls in line with the Cabinet Office Minister's "digital by default" agenda.

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"If it can be done online, it should be done online, and only online - digital by default," said Maude, speaking about digital delivery as one of five principles of public service reform.

"Digital transactions cost a fraction of post, telephony and face-to-face. And as well as being cheaper, services delivered online are faster, simpler and more convenient for the public to use," he added.

However, Maude told the audience that the move to digital services is about more than just recreating services as they are but on the web, insisting the government is examining each service and tailoring it to the needs of the user instead of the needs of Whitehall.

"This is why we are moving services online, but we aren't just recreating the same services. Rather we are taking the opportunity to rethink how services are structured - instead of expecting the user to bend to the needs of government, we are doing it the other way around," he said.

"That's the approach taken by some of the world's most successful and innovative companies, and by bringing it into Whitehall we're delivering better and cheaper services," Maude continued, before going on to seemingly suggest that government digital services can learn from the approach of successful Silicon Valley companies.

"'Move fast and break things' is the Facebook mantra. 'Fail fast' echoes around places like Silicon Valley. We don't need to break everything, but the best organisations learn most from the things that don't work. The culture of the civil service must change to not only tolerate but require risk taking," Maude said.

The Cabinet Office Minister also suggested that access to open data will play an important role in the government's digital reforms, likening it to steel during the industrial revolution.

"Open data is also a raw material for innovation and growth. As the industrial revolution was built on steel, so the digital revolution is built on data. That's why we've published more than 14,000 data sets on data.gov.uk, making it the largest open data portal in the world," said Maude.

Earlier this year, Maude claimed that the reforms being enacted will make the UK "the G8's most digital government" by 2015.

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