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This week at GDS

Highlights this week – many more services make their transition to GOV.UK, including content with an international flavour in the form of the new Worldwide section. The policy content has also been strengthened with the addition of 15 new policies. Four more departments have joined GOV.UK in one week, leaving 6 to go.

Three events of note: one for large, established suppliers to government to look at the impact of new frameworks, a policy forum hosted by Policy Exchange, and a very important one in terms of relationships between government departments. The weekly meeting of permanent secretaries (heads of central government departments) was held in the GDS office at Aviation House – bringing a great opportunity to highlight the work of GDS in relation to each department.

Mike Beaven, who leads our transformation programme, will provide the weekly update next week, including more on commercial and contractual issues and relationships with suppliers.

(Full transcript below)

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Designs of the Year

The Design Museum’s annual ‘Designs of the Year’ awards exhibition launched last week. As usual it’s an eclectic mix of architecture, fashion, digital, furniture, products, transport and graphics. Category winners and the overall winner will be decided by a jury and announced to the public on 17 April 2013.

Design Museum image 1

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Beating performance anxiety

One of the most important objectives for the Digital by Default Service Standard project was setting out a consistent way of measuring service performance. Why? Because all too often, there has been no shared understanding of how concepts like ‘customer satisfaction’ or even ‘cost per transaction’ are measured in government – which makes data-driven decision making difficult.

We wanted to create a set of measures that would help service managers to monitor and improve the performance of government services over time. Specifically, service managers need to be able to measure progress in three areas: improving the user’s experience of the service, reducing running costs, and shifting people towards using the digital channel.

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Digital Britain Two

NAO screenshot

Today the National Audit Office (NAO) published their Digital Britain Two report, examining the government’s digital by default strategy. In particular, the report took a close look at the strategy document we published last November, and assessed whether the evidence stacked up for taking the direction we’ve chosen.

The NAO’s views on what we’ve done are important, because they are both independent of government and responsible for checking that it spends public money wisely. Their reports are often very influential. In 2011 they published the Digital Britain One report (PDF, 556kB), which recommended five lessons that informed the newly created Government Digital Service (GDS).

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Welcoming four new departments to Inside Government

This week we have welcomed four new departments to the Inside Government section of GOV.UK: Department for International Development, Department of Health, Home Office and Wales Office.

Inside Government graphic

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As seen from the Department…

Screenshot of DH page on Inside Government

The move of web content from the Department of Health (DH) to GOV.UK has been a relatively calm experience for the DH team. It’s been extremely busy and quite intense at times but I only had one day of actual panic, about two weeks ago.

If I were starting the process again there are a few things I’d do differently, but there are other things I’m really pleased about and that I think we got completely right. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt – or re-learnt – over the past 6 months.

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Licensing on GOV.UK

Food Business Registration screenshot

Applying for licences is rarely a fun activity and this applies equally to the authorities responsible for processing them.

When you wanted a licence extension for your birthday party in a pub this would have traditionally involved a tedious and complicated paper process. Forms had to be completed by hand and in many cases copied to two or more authorities. The Electronic Licence Management System (ELMS) system launched in December 2009 and provided an online application option, however the uptake was slower than anticipated due to its complexity.

When the Businesslink site closed in October last year, the GOV.UK Licensing service – powering applications like registering a food business and holding a licensed event on unlicensed premises – launched alongside the main GOV.UK site. Since then it has processed around 15,000 licences.

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Making better choices for the technology we use

Getting a new message out

This week the IT Reform team within GDS released new guidance to government departments and suppliers around the technology we use. We’ve done this to make sure our technology doesn’t end up becoming inflexible, overdesigned, or adversely burdened with unnecessary management or security controls. Read more

Rising to the challenge on open standards

You might think that we’ve gone a little quiet since we published the Open Standards Principles last November, but we’ve been working hard on getting together the processes and the people to lead on some of the open standards challenges that you, our users, inside and outside government have told us to focus on first.

We know that having interoperable software and open information and data formats will mean that we can provide better services and bring about a positive change to the way government buys its IT.

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FCO travel services check-in to GOV.UK

This morning we fully welcomed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on to GOV.UK. There are lots of new features and services but a big focus for our team has been building the new Foreign Travel Advice pages.

Foreign Travel Advice provides British nationals with official FCO advice about safe travel around the world to help them make informed decisions about travelling and operating in a particular country. It has been the main driver of traffic to the previous FCO site and is sure to be a popular feature on GOV.UK.

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