GDS chief: digital will drive massive change across UK government, shrink the state

At the TechUK Public Services 2030 conference in east London, Stephen Foreshew-Cain said that a digital-first approach to government will impact everything from the way policy and services are designed and delivered to the interaction between citizen and state.

Speaking in the language of enterprise IT, Foreshew-Cain said previously siloed off areas will be broken down. And by 2030, government departments will each become much more simple and, he hopes, “radically different”.

“Some parts of Whitehall as they exist today will no longer exist,” he said. “The departmental siloes I think all of us have become aware of – I think they will just fade away.”

“There will be smaller administrative centres, and a new culture that is based on evidence-based decision-making that engenders trust,” Foreshew-Cain claimed. “Government will be smaller, it will be faster, and more flexible.”

A consequence of this, according to Foreshew-Cain, will be that interactions between government and citizen will no longer instill a sense of dread – we “will transform how people think about interacting with government and that will transform the relationship between the citizen and the state,” he said.

Under this umbrella of a digitally driven government, there will also be fundamental changes in the provisioning of services – whereby policy and service design are integrated much more tightly, along with a quicker time for delivery from idea to implementation.

To do this, civil servants will have to be “thinking in code, iterating in public, continuously consulting”.

“By 2030 policy making will be minimally designed and built as a framework that allows for flexibility and feedback not as a conclusion,” he said.

“Everything will be made using an interconnected network of digital components, built to an agreed standard, that can work for everyone across government.

“There will be software platforms, there will be data registers, standards, patterns, services and skills that teams in all departments can plug into quickly and easily when they need to.”

Foreshew-Cain went on to say that over the next 15 to 30 years, government will continue its work with the data programme – and insisted that the use of government data will bring great changes to both the public sector and for private enterprise.

“Businesses will be able to depend on better government data infrastructure which will simply make the UK a better place to do business,” he said. “Government will be in a position to innovate on trusted data sources like never before and will be able to offer users services which are tailored to them and their individual needs.”

But in order to achieve these ambitions to be agile and businesslike in its operations, government will have to “be simpler”.

“It will have to be smaller, faster and way more agile. It will have to be a more flexible and adaptable organisation by design – one that doesn’t fear innovation or technological change but really embraces it. And the result will be that services shape government and not the other way round.”


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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