When we launched the Civil Service Reform Plan in June, I said that the Civil Service of the future must look radically different and I asked civil servants to work together to deliver change while maintaining our core strengths and values.
Our reform plan also made a clear commitment to improve the quality of the government’s digital services, and to do this by publishing a Government Digital Strategy setting out how we would support the transformation of digital services.
Improving digital skills in government is a crucial element of our reform agenda and the strategy makes this explicit. In particular, I welcome the move to improve departmental digital leadership with the inclusion of an active digital leader on all departmental executive boards and a commitment to improve digital capability right throughout the civil service. We need to make sure that all departments have the right levels of digital capability in-house, including specialist skills.
The Civil Service Reform Plan also called for robust cross-government management information. This system will enable departments to be held to account by their boards, Parliament, the public and the centre of government. The Government Digital Strategy has reinforced this message with its call for service decisions to be based on accurate and timely management information. In addition, the Government Digital Service is working with departments to publish cost per government transaction data for the biggest government services before the end this year, all of which supports our reform and transparency ambitions.
The Civil Service Reform plan also clearly stated that the public increasingly expects to be able to access government services quickly and conveniently, at times and in ways that suit them. The recent release of GOV.UK as the single domain for government demonstrates our ability to do that. The production of departmental digital strategies is the next exciting step in the journey to make government Digital by Default and I am sure all departments will work collaboratively with the Government Digital Service to ensure we achieve this. I look forward to reading the detailed implementation plans that will underpin those strategies and to witnessing the transactional transformation in government that will happen over the coming years.
Digitisation of government has a wide range of benefits from driving savings and innovation for government to making things easier and more convenient for citizens. I am keen to embrace the concept of Digital by Default not just because it’s the right thing to do to meet the needs of our users, but because if offers completely new ways of working for civil servants.
In the Civil Service Reform Plan we promised that we would work differently and the publication of the Government Digital Strategy is a good example of how we are delivering on that promise. The strategy is a truly digital document; published straight to the web produced by civil servants who are also software coders, content designers and policy experts. That’s a million miles away from the stereotype of mountains of word documents, with closed PDF’s on publication. It’s a sign of the times and it’s the direction of travel for the future.