This week saw one of the key set pieces in the Government’s annual calendar - the Budget. All of Government is affected and we're no different here in Government Digital Service. In this budget the government set out its ambition to make the UK the technology hub of Europe, supporting technological innovation and helping the digital, creative and other high technology industries. Measures announced included:
• corporation tax reliefs for the video games, animation and high end television industries;
• announcement of the ten super-connected cities, which by 2015 will deliver ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and 200,000 businesses in high growth areas as well as high speed wireless broadband for three million residents;
• additional funding of £50 million to fund a second wave of ten smaller super-connected cities; and
• extending mobile coverage to 60,000 rural homes and along at least ten key roads by 2015.
These measures are in chapter 1c, page 42 of the Budget 2012 documents on HM Treasury website
All these measures will help the digital sector in the UK and ensure people have access to some of the services we’re working hard to transform. But what we’re really excited about is the commitment that the Government will “transform the quality of digital public services by committing that from 2014 new online services will only go live if the responsible minister can demonstrate that they themselves can use the service successfully. The Government will also ensure that all information is published on a single ‘gov.uk’ domain name by the end of 2012 and will move to a ‘digital by default’ approach to its transactional services by 2015”.
Francis Maude, as Minister responsible for efficiency and reform, has given his full support to our work and has been instrumental in driving through our mandate to deliver on Martha Lane Fox’s vision for digital public services. Now that mandate is reinforced by Government, with the commitment to our agenda set out in the budget report.
Wordsmithing of budget statements is a unique skill, not one I possess, so let me break it down and explain why I think it is so vital:
1. "...Transform the quality of digital public services by committing that from 2014 new online services will only go live if the responsible minister can demonstrate that they themselves can use the service successfully..."
Some have questioned the purpose of such a measure and in GDS we see this as a symbolic commitment. But it is vital that services are used by their creators, and this means Ministers will have a much clearer view of user experience and can therefore demand that those services deliver the best possible experience.
2. "...The Government will also ensure that all information is published on a single ‘gov.uk’ domain name by the end of 2012..."
As we have previously blogged, we’re already working hard on this one and the beta of GOV.UK is testament to how far we’ve already come. We’re working with colleagues across Government to get all information for citizens and businesses (what’s currently covered by Directgov and Businesslink) published on GOV.UK by the end of this year and this gives us the hurry up. We’re also working towards migrating Departmental sites onto “Inside Government” but that will take a little longer, with a more gradual transition as current contracting arrangements for individual Departments come to an end.
3. "...Will move to a ‘digital by default’ approach to its transactional services by 2015..."
This isn’t new - Francis Maude set out his commitment to digital by default back in November 2010 following Martha’s report. But it reinforces that commitment giving us a timescale for delivering change. Every Department will publish a Digital Strategy by the end of this year, setting out their roadmap for moving to a digital by default approach by 2015. This won't mean every transactional service will be digital by default by then (for some services transformation will be planned or when current contracts come to an end) but every Department will have a transformation plan in place. GDS will be working with colleagues around Government to look at services which need help, ranging from front-end rebuilding to entire business transformation, and will support the transformation of at least 8 services by 2014.
So, there’s much to do, but lots of commitment to getting it done. Tell us what you think, about this and the other measures to support technology in the budget and over the next few weeks I will be writing here about how we plan to achieve this ambitious agenda, as it’s a job for all of Government.