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The Northern Future Forum

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital strategy, GDS team

In 2010 the Prime Minister established the Northern Future Forum (NFF) with a different angle on the typical international summit. Instead of the usual set piece speeches and behind-the-scenes trading, NFF is a forum for leaders to learn from experts and a place for them to interact as well as listen.

From the beginning, the Forum has included the dynamic, progressive and open Nordic-Baltic countries. Now in its third year, it's proved to be a very popular and worthwhile gathering for the 9 Prime Ministers and its additional expert and official membership. Held this year in Riga the topics covered were 'bridging the digital divide in society' and 'competitiveness of the green economy'. The Forum heard presentations ranging from how to make shipping companies more efficient to creating a digital memory for a national network of museums.

The British delegation included Niklas Zennström from Atomico, Joanna Shields, CEO of Tech City, Tom Hulme from Ideo, Peter Boyd from the Carbon War Room, Nicholas O'Donohoe from Big Society Capital and me, representing GDS. I was there to present to 3 heads of government on the establishment of GDS, GOV.UK and how we're addressing the digital divide and the work on Assisted Digital.

Photo of the Northern Future Forum

Given the imperative for service improvement and cost reduction it's no surprise that we're all doing quite similar things, and that the development of digital public services is a driving force for change in all our countries. Collaboration was also a common theme. It's striking to see the extent to which we're all focussed on designing user centric services, and how we're all moving away from individual departments delivering services to a more cohesive single-site approach.

This approach offers huge potential for cost savings. The GDS cost per transaction model was acknowledged as very progressive, and the fact that we can only declare a new service 'live' once the responsible minister has successfully completed a transaction, raised a wry smile from the Prime Ministers.

Since our successful visit to Estonia in 2012 and the informal co-operation with RIA (the Estonian Government Technology Authority), we've signed an agreement to formalise our technical co-operation. This 'Memorandum of Understanding' means that both GDS and RIA will share information, experience and even colleagues so that our governments can learn from our progress and pitfalls. Our Estonian colleagues are more advanced in many areas than the British government, so this is a good opportunity for us to catch up.

There's definitely an appetite for further collaboration among NFF member states around digital public services. And our collective enthusiasm for Open Standards and Open Source will make co-operation easier and cheaper. Perhaps the idea of creating a 'D8' to bring together the top digital governments may even become a reality? It's certainly something we are all keen to pursue after the Riga meeting.

Finally profound thanks to the organisers and our embassy colleagues in Latvia. This was a very complex multi-delegation event with ever-present security, diplomatic and logistical headaches. But it was so well organised you would never have guessed. It was straightforward and without fuss though this was only my second NFF as a delegate, it was the best so far. Good luck to the next delegates in Helsinki in February 2014.

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  1. Comment by Chloe Mica posted on

    Certainly, the forum will be significant!

  2. Comment by susie beee posted on

    Im a first time jobseeker age 50 n feel like scum evrytime ave to go beg at jc.They cocked my jsa up today n if my daughter hadnt ave av helped me i wouldnt ave had any any electric etc til god knows wen.i think they just want to cull us but then wot theyl ave no job.i so want to work but they dont help.been put on work programme so hopefully i may get sum help.

  3. Comment by Bernadette Sharp posted on

    I can tell you what it is like to live on job seekers and how it makes people It make you feel like you have no right to live that your scum and it dose not mater how hard you try to look for work you are still scum and empolyer;s can pick and chosse who they want because their are so many people out of work if your aged between 40 and 68 yrs you dont get any help at all they dont count and we are a forgotten people I my self do not like signing on it make me deeply depressed and not fit to be in the human race I was due to get my job seekers allowance today but due to an jobcentre plus saff misstack I now have to wait till their ready to sort it out we live in a dont care world to day and people are not doing their jobs properly because this goverment dose not care about his people only how much money they can get out of them and half of the are living below the poverty bread line because of the goverments cavaleir attuide they let to many people in to this country and we cant aford to keep them let alone sort out the ones that are born and bred here they dont count at all I am doing my best to get a job but this goverment is not doing any thing to help people to get work more than half the jobs on the websites are just their to keep the goverment happy they are not realy their and If your my age in the 55+ you dont stand any chance