CBI calls for expansion of GDS

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Government Digital Service (GDS) to be expanded and beefed up, with a remit of ensuring all public services are online by 2020.

The business lobbying organisation told ComputerworldUK that in the next parliament it wants GDS “to increase its profile across government departments, rather than work primarily through the Cabinet Office. We think its reach should be expanded across all areas of government”.

In a report titled ‘Our future public services’, the CBI said that GDS should take the lead in ensuring digital channels become citizens’ main point of contact for public services by 2020.

The CBI applauded progress made through GDS so far, including the GOV.UK domain and the digitisation of driver licensing, voter registration and self-assessment tax returns.

‘Be bolder’

However it called for the next government to be “bolder across all public services”. It said that every government form and application system should be accessible online by 2020.

In six years’ time, CBI said it would like to see e-prescriptions sent to smartphones, online consultations with GPs and jobcentre staff available, and the ability to track planning applications over the web.

The ambitious list also included calls for all local authority services, digital health records, and profiles of schools by area, ranking and satisfaction to be online by the end of the next parliament.

The group said it recognised the importance of alternative mechanisms remaining open for those who need to adjust, develop skills, or simply don’t want to interact with government online.

However it said that five in six people want ‘digital-by-default services’ where it is offered as a choice and not the sole route to access services, according to Ipsos MORI research.

The report said: “There is currently a mismatch between how people manage their lives online and the way they interact with public services. In the past 12 months 77 percent of people bought or ordered goods or services online, but only 41 percent interacted online with public authorities.”

As part of this shift, the CBI added that there needs to be “an honest dialogue” about information sharing across public services and how that can done securely.

‘More to do’

In response to the report the Cabinet Office acknowledged that there is “more to do” but notably did not respond to calls for GDS to have an expanded role across Whitehall.

A spokesperson said: “This government is introducing digital-by-default public services, designed around the user. Our first wave of 25 ‘exemplar’ services will make things simpler, clearer and faster for people to interact with government.

“Fourteen are already being used by the public - so people can do things like register to vote and view their driving license details online – but there’s more to do as we press ahead with our plans to be the most advanced digital government in the developed world.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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