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Budget Blog

budget_box_osborne1

This week saw one of the key set pieces in the Government’s annual calendar – the Budget. All of Government is affected and we’re no different here in Government Digital Service. In this budget the government set out its ambition to make the UK the technology hub of Europe, supporting technological innovation and helping the digital, creative and other high technology industries. Measures announced included:

• corporation tax reliefs for the video games, animation and high end television industries;
• announcement of the ten super-connected cities, which by 2015 will deliver ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and 200,000 businesses in high growth areas as well as high speed wireless broadband for three million residents;
• additional funding of £50 million to fund a second wave of ten smaller super-connected cities; and
• extending mobile coverage to 60,000 rural homes and along at least ten key roads by 2015.
These measures are in chapter 1c, page 42 of the Budget 2012 documents on HM Treasury website

All these measures will help the digital sector in the UK and ensure people have access to some of the services we’re working hard to transform. But what we’re really excited about is the commitment that the Government will “transform the quality of digital public services by committing that from 2014 new online services will only go live if the responsible minister can demonstrate that they themselves can use the service successfully. The Government will also ensure that all information is published on a single ‘gov.uk’ domain name by the end of 2012 and will move to a ‘digital by default’ approach to its transactional services by 2015”.

Francis Maude, as Minister responsible for efficiency and reform, has given his full support to our work and has been instrumental in driving through our mandate to deliver on Martha Lane Fox’s vision for digital public services. Now that mandate is reinforced by Government, with the commitment to our agenda set out in the budget report.

Wordsmithing of budget statements is a unique skill, not one I possess, so let me break it down and explain why I think it is so vital:

1. “…Transform the quality of digital public services by committing that from 2014 new online services will only go live if the responsible minister can demonstrate that they themselves can use the service successfully…”

Some have questioned the purpose of such a measure and in GDS we see this as a symbolic commitment. But it is vital that services are used by their creators, and this means Ministers will have a much clearer view of user experience and can therefore demand that those services deliver the best possible experience.

2. “…The Government will also ensure that all information is published on a single ‘gov.uk’ domain name by the end of 2012…

As we have previously blogged, we’re already working hard on this one and the beta of GOV.UK is testament to how far we’ve already come. We’re working with colleagues across Government to get all information for citizens and businesses (what’s currently covered by Directgov and Businesslink) published on GOV.UK by the end of this year and this gives us the hurry up. We’re also working towards migrating Departmental sites onto “Inside Government” but that will take a little longer, with a more gradual transition as current contracting arrangements for individual Departments come to an end.

3. “…Will move to a ‘digital by default’ approach to its transactional services by 2015…

This isn’t new – Francis Maude set out his commitment to digital by default back in November 2010 following Martha’s report. But it reinforces that commitment giving us a timescale for delivering change.  Every Department will publish a Digital Strategy by the end of this year, setting out their roadmap for moving to a digital by default approach by 2015. This won’t mean every transactional service will be digital by default by then (for some services transformation will be planned or when current contracts come to an end) but every Department will have a transformation plan in place. GDS will be working with colleagues around Government to look at services which need help, ranging from front-end rebuilding to entire business transformation, and will support the transformation of at least 8 services by 2014.

So, there’s much to do, but lots of commitment to getting it done. Tell us what you think, about this and the other measures to support technology in the budget and over the next few weeks I will be writing here about how we plan to achieve this ambitious agenda, as it’s a job for all of Government.

Budget 2012 documents on HM Treasury website

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is all a very good start but there is still much to be done.

    I imagine that every department already had a Digital Strategy, the question is what will be new with these going forwards? Is there a plan for a unified cross-government data dictionary for example? Will departments be opening their data up to each other (or the public)? Will there be internal (or external!) SOA-style transactional APIs in all departments with common functions such as procurement or reporting being factored out to centralised hubs?

    My biggest concern however is always about lack of transparency in government IT development. GDS is an excellent model of openness but it goes without saying that this is far from true across the board. Many departments are still in focused on multi-year waterfall developments with the giant consultancy companies where development and project planning go on in secret, often for years, leading to vast budget and time over-runs.

    What I would like to see more than anything else would be the establishment of *public* end-of-sprint demos / retrospectives for any IT projects developed from the public purse. These meetings would be online and listen/watch only for the vast majority of participants. However, they would go a long way into eliminating the lack of trust the public has in the ability of the government to delivery IT on-time and to-budget.

    GDS moving to this concept would be an excellent start and a great example for other departments to follow.

    23/03/2012
    • David

      Thank you for your comments and queries, I will pass them onto the team here.

      23/03/2012
  2. It’s got to be a step in the right direction. However, if you look at the pillars of progress under the digital agenda for Europe then you’ll see that under eGovernment for the UK it states “the use of eGovernment by businesses, at 67%, remains low when compared with other Member States.”. I wonder what plans you have to address this? Likewise, there is a Europe-wide deficit of small businesses who are utilising eCommerce. To be fair, perhaps these are questions for BIS…….

    Perhaps it’s just me but the above rhetoric seems to be all very ‘web’ and ‘online’ centric. Technologies such as RFID, LED lighting, 3D printing, the use of eBooks in libraries or for meetings etc. don’t seem to feature so heavily in terms of transforming government into a digital by default mode. Is GDS locked into online as the only way to achieve this vision?

    Here’s a great example of a little project in Lincolnshire which has embraced digital as a wider concept for transforming the small business community : http://www.digitallincs.com

    23/03/2012
    • Thank you for your comments and queries, I will pass them onto the team here. Thanks also for the link to the Lincolnshire project, really interesting.

      23/03/2012
  3. Although Digital is crucual for the future growth of the country. The only thing that worries me is Government (all parties) will be able to make mistakes quicker! Maybe these funds would have been better spent on relief for small businesses who could then in turn hire more staff.

    29/03/2012

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