The much-delayed Government Digital Strategy (GDS), or Government Transformation Strategy (as it has been called) was announced yesterday by Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer.
He delivered the details of the plan during his keynote speech at the Reform Annual Conference 2017.
Gartner’s research director Neville Cannon, a former government CIO, has discussed the planned strategy with Information Age, specifically surrounding its viability.
Neville Cannon, research director, Gartner
He discussed the potential of the plan and the importance of collaboration across government departments to see it succeed.
However, he stressed that despite the positive content in the strategy, it will inevitably not achieve the goals it has set forth; citing political instability as a major factor in this.
Cannon also emphasised, if the plan is to succeed, the important role data has to play in realising the transformation strategy.
In addition to this, Cannon discussed three topics surrounding how government systems need to change moving forward, as part of the larger, global digitalisation.
These topics concerned: how local government departments will use open data, adopt the public cloud and automate services.
What is your impression of the Government’s Transformation Strategy? Is it achievable?
The general overview is that there is little in there to disagree with.
It wants to change things, it wants to change things fairly significantly. It wants to continue developing the citizen-engagement routine. There’s lots to agree with. But, ultimately, I don’t think it is achievable.
One of the problems is that the strategy starts from the position that the UK is one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. I would question that.
We’ve got a successful front-end with GOV.UK, but even that is relatively limited in terms of what it’s dealing with. If you look at things like mobile technology, or even taxation.
By 2020 the plan is to get rid of a number of different tax returns. This service has already been automated from beginning to end in Finland.
The passport office here wants to move into the digital sphere. Already in Qatar – and I know it’s a much smaller country – you can get a passport in an hour via your mobile phone.
So, in terms of what they’re doing, yes a lot of it is very good and a lot of stuff in the strategy you can agree with, but is it achievable? I would say it is unlikely between now and the next parliament. In that timeframe we are going to be predominantly dealing with Brexit.
The government’s facing some challenges in terms of how it can recruit the technical people it needs to develop the holistic approach that it needs to adopt: to share data and to collaborate across departments.
Finding the technical architects with the capabilities across the whole of government is proving difficult.
Given that the government hasn’t really fully delivered on its the 2012 strategy, I think it’s going to be hard in the political climate in the next three years to deliver this one. You could even ask the question that with the turmoil of Brexit and what’s happening in the US at the moment, is this kind of strategy even the right one, let alone can it be delivered?
The other issue I have is it talks about being a transformation strategy, yet what it actually states in here is there looking for a significant step change, and I would say the country needs transformation.
The government could have written this strategy five years ago. There’s a lot of fuzzy stuff in here. It’s more around optimisation than transformation. They’re still looking at improving services to the citizens, they’re still trying to make government more efficient.
The strategy is not about transforming these systems and dealing with the problems that the country has, especially on a local authority level.