"Digital is not another channel, it is the delivery choice for this generation"
- Francis Maude, Minister for Cabinet Office said at the Intellect World-Class Public Services Conference today, 11 June 2012
This morning I had a chance to speak at the Intellect World-Class Public Services Conference and to listen to the keynote speech delivered by the Minister for Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Intellect is the leading trade association serving its members in the UK technology industry so it was an important audience for the Minister to address to state his vision for our future public services. He delivered some strong messages to the industry articulating what had gone wrong in the past and what a better future might look like:
"In the past the government procured all of its IT needs together with simple commodity requirements like email, collaboration and word processing procured alongside complex ones such as systems related to welfare and taxation. And contracts were consistently awarded to a limited number of very large suppliers on long-term exclusive contracts. As a result there was inadequate competition and an abdication of control....At the same time, smaller, more innovative and efficient suppliers were finding themselves locked out of the supply of services to Government because of what was described by Parliament as a powerful “oligopoly” of large suppliers....All in all, we had an approach that was bad for users, bad for the taxpayer and bad for growth....A little over a year ago this Government set out an ICT strategy focused on making Government technology cheaper, more transparent, more innovative and flexible – with more opportunities for new suppliers, including SME's”.
The Minister also set out his view of Digital by Default acknowledging the fact that digital is not just another channel, it is the delivery choice for this generation:
"Government Digital Service was established to drive service delivery to digital across government and provide support, advice and technical expertise for Departments as they develop new digital delivery models. Already we have seen the beta launch of GOV.UK which signalled a new approach to providing services based on real user needs rather than internal Government processes and traditions.....This is the new model for digital service provision and through the life of this Parliament we will transform many existing Government transactions in this way. For the first time in Government we are using agile, iterative processes, open source technology platforms and world-class in-house development teams alongside the best digital innovation the market can offer”
Turning to the issue of costs per transactions, the Minister was crystal clear on the need to drive down costs and improve user experience:
"We must eliminate failure waste. At the moment, a large proportion of our service delivery costs are incurred through incomplete or failed digital transactions. And these transactions create cross-channel duplication, which burdens the user and costs Government a huge amount in repeated costs. For HMRC alone, they estimate that 35% of calls to its contact centres are avoidable, which would save £75m.”
The Minister concluded by restating his commitment to Transparency and Open Data:
"Historically Governments have hoarded their data – but over the last twenty years something momentous has occurred – the World has opened up. For the first time we have the technology to meet a growing demand for greater openness that is uncontainable.....Transparency is a defining passion for this Government and the UK is leading the world in making data more freely available....The Cabinet Office will shortly be publishing an Open Data White Paper which will set out the next steps on this agenda – outlining how we will continue to unlock the benefits of data by enhancing access, building trust in data sharing and getting smarter at using data”
Check out the Tweets #worldclass2012 - I've included a few below to give a flavour of the response: