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Government Digital Service Opens For Business

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The GDS is now in place to reduce the cost and improve the quality of government online services

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has announced the Government Digital Service (GDS) is open for business.

GDS forms the hub of the government’s digital services initiative and has already been instrumental in setting up the ePetitions site, and the development of the Tech City App for smartphones. Both projects have been completed since August, an achievement the new service is proud to promote.

Cross-government harmonisation

Mike Bracken (pictured), the government’s executive director of digital, said in a statement, “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.”

He also acknowledged the third-party input to the scheme: “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.”

The GDS is planned to be a centre of excellence for government services projects. Having a central reference point will give other departments a focal point for collaboration and access to the expertise they may need to see their plans through. Prior to this the departments had to supervise and organise their projects in isolation on a piecemeal basis.

Bracken said that GDS has already assisted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the tax department (HMRC), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

GDS is one of the government’s cost-cutting initiatives, similar to the Government Procurement Service to ensure that contracts are fair and economical. In the past, departments have found that quotes for similar work undertaken by different sections have been allocated widely differing budgets. Incidents like the current row with CDS over the cancellation of the National Health Service National Programme for IT (NHS NPfIT) project were not uncommon and the centralised, specialist divisions are intended to eradicate or minimise these incidents.

“The mission at GDS is attractive to digital experts and public policy specialists alike,” Bracken said, “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 biggest challenge to be given to GDS so far is the development of identity assurance for digital transactions. It is hoped that this £10 million cross-government project will deliver an identity scheme to allow citizens to securely register for government service using their own digital IDs.