Government Digital Services: Google and Amazon are our role models

The government wants to build its digital services in the same way that large, successful technology companies built their businesses, according to the Government Digital Service (GDS).

"We wanted to build GDS the way Google built Google and the way Amazon built Amazon," Tom Loosemore, deputy director at the Cabinet Office's GDS, told the Digital London conference yesterday.

GDS identified four key approaches to doing this, namely, by doing things digital-by-default, being agile and user-centric, and by using and promoting open data.

Being agile has helped GDS respond quickly to trends in demand, said Loosemore.

For example, a team of 30 developers at GDS launched a mobile version of the beta stage of its single domain website, GOV.UK, just days after the main site went live.

"The key feedback was that more than 20 percent of people were using it [the site] on smartphones.

"Two days after launch, we launched on smartphones," said Loosemore.

Agility is more than a state of mind, it is also being about iterative, said Loosemore. GDS has previously expressed a desire to follow photo-hosting website Flickr's model of iterative development.

"Never stop fixing. You are never finished with your product or your service," he said.

In terms of focusing on user needs, Loosemore said that this means transcending organisational boundaries.

He gave the example of website, which is an online service that allows UK citizens to report repairs easily to their local authority through a central website, instead of contacting individual council divisions. Its success has led to councils to consider integrating their internal systems with the site

"No council alone could have set that up. It took someone coming from the outside. Some councils are saying 'why don't we retrofit our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems to'," said Loosemore.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Minister Francis Maude has today praised a number of open data projects that arose from the government's pledge to free up public data.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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