Civil service head lends support to ‘government as a platform’ idea

Civil service headSir Jeremy Heywood has endorsed ‘government as a platform’ as a guiding concept for Whitehall reform in a blog post on GOV.UK.

An aim to move to common technology platforms across government, with public services built on a shared core, was included in the government’s digital strategy published in 2012.

Civil service leaders are increasingly focusing on implementing the concept, according to Heywood, who wrote that it will mean “we build technology that is more open and more interconnected.”

“If one department needs a service for publishing information to the web, so will other departments – so why should they all pay money to different people to achieve the same end? Why not just build a publishing platform they can all use and share?”

“That’s what GOV.UK is. It is not just a website, it’s a platform”, Heywood said.

He said platforms will help to create a more unified, efficient civil service and move away from running government “as a series of disjointed silos”.

Heywood continued: “A huge amount of work has been done already, but we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

For example, he said, external developers will be able to make use of the huge quantities of data government collects via platforms and Application Programming Interfaces, developing new services Whitehall couldn’t justify spending money on.

In the blog post Heywood said HP CEO Meg Whitman and ‘her top team’ met digital leaders and permanent secretaries last Friday.

HP is the biggest supplier to government, earning over £1.7 billion last year. However Whitehall is currently trying to move away from monolithic outsourcing contracts with single suppliers.

Although Heywood chose not to reveal details of the discussion with Whitman he said it “indicated just how significant this agenda is and also – in my view – the good progress we have already made.”

GDS has confirmed that government chief technology officer Liam Maxwell has agreed to stay in his post until at least 2018.

For a fuller explanation from GDS of the ideas behind Government as a Platform see the video below: