Mike Bracken

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, opens the new home of the Government Digital Service

by Mike Bracken. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

We are open for business.

We have a new home. It’s taken a few months of incredibly hard work to bring six parts of Government activity into one place, but we’re here now. We’ve had huge support, from Cabinet Office colleagues, our Minister and his colleagues in Number 10, and crucially the Treasury. We’ve had great support too from many in the wider digital community to try something very different with Government and technology. We’ve done it very quickly, starting in early August, we’ve moved people, structures and buildings simultaneously, never an easy ask. And the benefits are already visible:

Collaboration across projects becomes easier. For example, the identity team can now work with platform developers to devise future IDA services. We have already hosted colleagues from DWPHMRCMoJ/OPG and Constitutional Affairs, and continue to help them devise future digital services.

The Government in its wider sense now has a digital home, and it’s from here we can help drive a new generation of digital public services. Cross-Government working, for so long an abstract concept, is starting to happen around this digital centre. And we will continue to throw our doors open to suppliers and partners.

Talent is arriving. The mission at GDS is attractive to digital experts and public policy specialists alike and we are starting to see new skills take root within Government. ‘Creating an environment for technology leaders to flourish’ is one of our key principles, and we are starting to live up to it. The other 6 are written on the walls and windows of the building.

As we reduce friction, we create savings. While our objective is the delivery of outstanding digital services which are then iterated quickly based on user need and demand, the delivery frees up huge savings as a result.

It’s been an exciting few months since I started as the Executive Director for GDS, and I am pleased to formally open it to the world with Minister for Cabinet Office Francis Maude, Martha Lane Fox – the UK’s Digital Champion and Ian Watmore – Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office

The Minister, Francis Maude, has said:

“We are determined to offer world class digital products that meet people’s needs and offer better value for taxpayers’ money – and that is why we have set up the Government Digital Service.

“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 and give them the smartest and most cost-effective service possible.

“I’d like to thank Martha Lane Fox for helping us to kick off our journey to make our services ‘digital by default’ and for  her continuing support”

Martha Lane Fox at GDS launch ©paulclarke.com

We’ve had a month to try the building on for size and find new ways of working. We have already made substantial breakthroughs:

E-petitions: A service created by GDS in 6 weeks (including procurement time) has now had nearly 3 million people signing e-petitions at a cost of less than 1p per use. So far six petitions either have been or will be debated in Parliament.

Directgov: In October 31 million people visited a site that now hosts 95% of all citizen facing content.

Tech City App: Instead of producing a policy paper for the PM’s visit to Tech City GDS produced an app (in collaboration with Number 10 and Tech City company mobileroadie).

Re-set Identity Assurance: £10 million of funding has allowed us to start the GDS programme to work collectively across Government to deliver identity assurance  solutions for digital transactions.

Next year we look forward to a faster pace for delivery. While our roadmap is not finalised, and indeed will never be given the agility to which we aspire, we can look forward to some major releases.

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