It was great to hear Francis Maude’s commitment yesterday that by 2015, the UK will be the most digital government in the G8. The team at GDS have been doing great things in their quest to make services open, accessible and easy to use.
The first wave of 25 exemplar services to be delivered digitally by default will support an estimated 1.3 million students applying for loans, 46 million people registering to vote and 10 million self-assessing their taxes. Government savings from IT will be £500 million this year and much more is predicted post election – £1.7 billion each year after the election (but that’s savings for “the Exchequer, citizens, and businesses”).
I’m a fan of digital by default – I know digital provides us with better, more efficient and more convenient services. Digital can be more open and provides the opportunity for citizens to collaborate more with Government. Digital by default policy as it’s implemented will be a carrot to encourage some of the 11 million people without digital skills into learning more so they can access some of these services and digital Government for some will be their gateway to the wonders the web will bring them. We now know too, from our hyperlocal partners’ experiences of Universal Jobmatch, that mandation of online services will only motivate some people to go online and stay online.
It’s great to think that we’ll lead G8 countries as well as seeing others, such as New Zealand take inspiration (and code) for their new Government site beta.govt.nz, I hope Maude and his overseas counterparts see the work GDS, Go On UK, Tinder Foundation and others are doing and follow our collective example and embed digital inclusion into their Government Digital Strategies. “Action 15” in the UK’s Digital Strategy is a good start: “Collaborate with partners across public, private and voluntary sectors to help people go online”, it says:
appoint a senior digital inclusion lead accountable to their departmental digital leader where it has been agreed with Government Digital Service (GDS) that this is relevant to their business
agree the resourcing they will provide to the cross-government digital inclusion team based in GDS, which will collaborate with partners across public, private and voluntary sectors
build digital inclusion into policy making and use government digital and assisted digital services to help people go online
publish a set of digital inclusion principles by early 2014
work with departments and partners to agree our approach to digital inclusion and publish a digital inclusion strategy in spring 2014
collaborate with government and cross-sector partners to establish and support programmes that help those who are digitally excluded
evaluate, monitor and share what works
I’m proud that we have a Digital Strategy in the UK. I’m proud that other nations are looking to British endeavours for inspiration. I’m proud that the UK Digital Strategy includes an Action that supports an ambition that all citizens should be able to take advantage of all the benefits that digital can bring, and a clear statement that empowering people to go online helps to “tackle wider social issues, supports economic growth and close equality gaps”. And I’ll be proud when these ambitions become reality.