Putting Digital Into Government’s DNA

Matt Hancock MP

Written by Matt Hancock MP, Her Majesty’s Paymaster General, Former Minister for the Cabinet Office and the MP for West Suffolk

Tech is inherently disruptive and good for our economy. Through it, consumers are benefiting from quicker, smarter and more responsive services. I want to use government to push things further and expand our role as a world-leading digital economy.

I’ve learnt three key lessons from our work transforming services in government:

1)           Start small

…because the best way to convince the naysayers is to show them something that works.

The Government Digital Service was designed to be an insurgent start-up bolted onto the Civil Service, not some grand Ministry of Technology. Rather than looking to shake up the entire public sector at once, GDS aimed to transform a specific set of high-volume transactions. The idea was to prove not just the technology, but the underlying methodology. GDS has now delivered twenty digital public services, and converted the doubters.

Now digital transformation is going from start-up to mainstream. GDS has been backed with £450 million in the Spending Review to drive forward the next phase of transformation over this Parliament.

2)           Digital transformation is business transformation

Before GDS, government technology was mostly contract management. Digital services were designed, built and delivered externally on inflexible contracts that locked us into ageing IT. Now we’ve brought our tech architecture, project management and delivery in-house. We control and understand our own technology. And where we procure through the Digital Marketplace, we’re an intelligent customer and can take advantage of the best industry has to offer.

We are building platforms for common activities, like GOV.UK/Pay for payments or GOV.UK/Notify for status tracking, which can be reused across government. It means we can deliver more complex services that make sense to the user, covering the areas of different departments.

Talent drives all these changes and the Digital and Technology Fast Stream programme is developing our tech-savvy leaders of the future. A cohort of almost 100 graduates are already working right across government.

3)           Data as a public service

We want to make data available as a public service. That’s one of the reasons we’ve just introduced the Digital Economy Bill to Parliament. While protecting privacy we can strengthen trust in the state, reduce fraud, and increase innovation.

It will be possible, for example, to provide automatic discounts off the energy bills of people living in fuel poverty, or to deliver more timely interventions for troubled families dealing with multiple government agencies.

Modern data science will allow us to target resources more effectively, and design better, more responsive public services, using data to drive constant incremental improvement, basing policy on fact rather than theory.

And the focus on the user helps us to reform government departments around 21st century tools and techniques, making the most of the best technologies industry has to offer us.

This is a huge agenda and a huge opportunity to deliver for the citizens that we serve.

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