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Thoughts on my recent trip to the West Coast with Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, GOV.UK

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and I recently travelled to the West Coast of the US which coincided with the launch of GOV.UK. It was slightly surreal not to be in the UK for such an important moment for GDS but really gratifying to see the interest shown by the US tech media.

The aim of our trip was:

To celebrate the launch of GOV.UK, confirming the UK Government’s adoption of emergent, open source technologies

To reaffirm the UK's commitment to making it easier for companies working with these technologies to come to the UK

To deepen understanding and connections of key Ministerial responsibilities: Identity, Mutuals, Fraud, Error and Debt.

Wednesday – Platform Day

An early breakfast briefing with colleagues from UKTI in the West Coast started the day before we visited Google to meet Jonathan Hall, Google's Policy Economist. He outlined the number of jobs created by embracing open Internet standards.

Andrew Nash, Google's Director of Identity, ran us through the current issues facing identity.He explained how Google aim to grow and be part of an ecosystem of identify providers, and encouraged the UK Government to play its part in a federated system. The UK ID Assurance team and Google agreed to work more closely to define our strategy – so look out for future announcements. Andrew also took the opportunity to walk the Minister through the Identity ecosystem.

After a short GOV.UK presentation, Jeff Davis, Manager of Enterprise Evangelism at Google, gave an inspiring presentation on Pretotyping- the idea of using quick and early releases to evaluate the validity of any idea or project. While supporting GOV.UK, Jeff recommended a sea change in how procurement is approached using rapid iterations based on peer review.

Andrew Nash, Director of Identity Services at Google

After several more meetings on transparency and other public policy topics and witnessing a beach volleyball game, Google style, we departed to meet with PayPal and eBay.

Paypal & Ebay

The top teams from eBay and Paypal came out in force to welcome the Minister including Richard Nash, Patrick Dupuis, Tod Cohen, Edwin Aoki, Neale Sample, Michael Barrett and Alistair Gates.

Some of the highlights of the PayPal/eBay visit included a technology overview with Edwin Aoki, Technology Fellow. He gave the Minister a tour of Paypal’s wallet and payments systems, demonstrating the use of mobile for online retail transaction, a full platform review and a look at the capabilities of x.commerce, eBay’s newest venture.

We finished on Wednesday evening with a VC dinner hosted by Silicon Valley Bank. Big thanks to Gerald Brady for hosting and organising this.

gezbrady tweeted at 1:33 AM · Feb 2, 2012 (tweet content below)
"Proud to have @SVB_Financial co-hosting dinner with UKTI for Cabinet Minister Francis Maude and entrepreneurs tonight"


The Minister spent the morning in Sacramento before an afternoon visit to Code for America where we had a chance to have an informed discussion with Jen Pahlka and Tim O'Reilly. Tim was clearly impressed with GOV.UK and some stickers we had prepared in advance:

timoreilly tweeted at 2:41 AM · Feb 3, 2012 (tweet content below)
"@MTBracken @GovUK Thanks for the stickers. They are awesome, as is Good to see you this afternoon."

I think this meeting really drove home for the Minister the idea that small teams of people can really change government services.


The focus of Friday was to meet and engage with the kind of companies that we would like like to work with us in the UK. Amr Awadallah (VP Engineering) and Tait Kirkham from Cloudera welcomed the Minister to their offices.


Then it was on to Joyent with the team Rod Boothby, Chris Arisian, Laurel Reitman, Steve Tuck and Liam Maxwell from the Efficiency and Reform Group at Cabinet Office.


Unfortunately, though we had planned to meet with Twilio we didn’t make it and, sorry to say, didnt get any pics from our visit to 10 gen/MongoDB – but thanks to Ben Sabrin for the t-shirts they gave us for our @govuk developers.


We finished with a visit to Lucid/MapR


And our takeaway from the visit?

  • Open source is key to enterprise change
  • Three of the companies we saw are coming to the UK and are keen to work with us in Government
  • Government needs small teams of technologists who can work with them.

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  1. Comment by Andy Hopkirk posted on

    no reply to my query of 16 Feb?

  2. Comment by The Cabinet Office & FOI, A Retrospective, 2010-2011 « 2040 info law blog posted on

    [...] government. George Francis Maude promises a quantum leap in transparency and goes around the world promoting openness. He must be OK: in some of these photos, he’s rocking that smart jacket / jeans combo that says, [...]

  3. Comment by David posted on

    Very entertaining but I wonder why visits couldn't have made to tech companies in the UK? Google and Paypal both have a UK presence as far as I know. In times of austerity it smacks of one rule for Ministers and one rule for the rest of us on matters such as this - and I speak as a civil servant being asked to stay in pretty crumby hotels whenever I have to visit London on official business.

    I'd quite like to see the business case for such a trip and the cost/benefit analysis - or are Ministerial trips exempt from such scrutiny?

    (Envious of a trips to SF? You bet I am!)

  4. Comment by Andy Hopkirk posted on

    Interesting...Takeaway: "Open source is key to enterprise change" - May I ask what the hard evidence is for this 'keyness' assertion that you saw in the visit? Any examples of government/ government scale 'enterprises' changed?
    (Apologies if this is a repeat submission but I sent in similar a while ago and seen/heard nothing from it.)
    (BTW I am enjoying the following the developing GDS story.)

  5. Comment by Ian Glen posted on

    Thanks for the trip report Mike. Awesome.

  6. Comment by RickWaghorn posted on

    All good, valuable stuff - no doubt. Particularly Google and transparency.

    If HM Govt is looking to work with small teams of technologistsis there any chance of two lads from Norfolk being invited in for tea?

    We are, after all, part of the UKTI's official Digital Mission to SxSWi this year; be nice to think that the US didn't enjoy a complete monopoly on collaborative models aimed at making the web less of a drain on the tax-payers purse.

    Best etc

    • Replies to RickWaghorn>

      Comment by James Taylor posted on

      Hi Rick- get in touch via the contact form with a bit more detail and we'll get back to you. Really interested to hear from you.