The rush of departures at the Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2015 raised alarms that digital transformation may be shifting down the government’s agenda, or at least that's what it looked like from the outset.
GDS founder and Cabinet Officer minister Francis Maude was followed out of the door by GDS executive director and chief data officer Mike Bracken, along with four other high-ranking executives, and it seemed like the Tory government was poised to focus its digital transformation efforts away from the reach of GDS.
But those concerns appear to have abated after the government allocated £450m to support GDS over the next five years, while the department has new leaders in the shape of Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock and executive director Stephen Foreshew-Cain (pictured).
Now that the new leaders have had time to bed in, V3 took the opportunity to ask Foreshew-Cain what to expect from GDS in 2016 and the next four years.
GDS is driving the concept of government-as-a-platform (GaaP) whereby public services are built from common, cross-government components rather than in departmental silos, so it is unsurprising that a core part of its work is to press on with this mission.
“We are going to see more platforms, definitely within the digital group which is responsible for identifying, building and delivering platforms and operating them on behalf of the government,” said Foreshew-Cain.
He cited the success of current platforms such as Gov.UK and the Verify identification service, currently in beta, that have seen strong adoption across Whitehall.
But he highlighted how much more is to come from GDS, pointing to the Gov.Pay payment and Gov.Notify notification platforms as examples of GDS pursuing the development of GaaP.
“We haven’t even got the money yet, so the stuff you’ve seen has been built from core GDS,” he said, pointing out that the £450m of funding has yet to come into effect. “And we are going to accelerate as we build the teams up.”
Foreshew-Cain explained that the fund will be spilt roughly into four segments: supporting the development of GDS platforms and digital standards; funding the spread of GaaP across Whitehall; supporting the government's data register programme to open up more public data; and supporting the common technology services programme that provides departments and GDS with the technology they need to facilitate the GaaP agenda.
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