MPs to scrutinise whether GDS is fit for purpose

Fresh investigation follows Institute for Government report last year criticising the slow pace of government digitisation

Houses of Parliament

MPs are welcoming evidence for an inquiry they have launched into the rollout of digital services across central government, as well as how protected these are from cyber attacks.

Parliament's science and technology committee will be assessing the state of the Government Digital Service (GDS), created in 2011 to facilitate the digitisation of the wider public sector, and determine how well the Cabinet Office initiative has helped spread digital services.

The freshly-launched investigation follows a period of turbulence for GDS during which it has had several different people in charge, and which led Francis Maude, the former Cabinet Office minister who helped create it, to declare its initial vision of government-as-platform 'dead' in 2017.

It also comes in the wake of an Institute for Government report released in June last year that found the spread of digital services across government had been "slower than planned", and that the infamous WannaCry attack, in which the NHS was swept up, showed the fragility of the public's sector's systems.

Beyond establishing how well digital services are protected against cyber attack, the inquiry will look into the implications for GDS after its data policy governance functions were transferred from the Cabinet Office to the department for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS).

The role of GDS has shifted in the last few years, with a Digital Transformation Strategy, published in February 2017, outlining how the government intends GDS to continue adapting "in a way that is responsive to the changing needs of government".

As part of the wider strategy, GDS will continue its digital transformation efforts across government, as well as work towards developing better workplace tools and processes for civil servants and public sector workers.

Only a couple months ago, the Policy Exchange think tank called for GDS to shift from oversight of the Cabinet Office to DCMS in its entirety in order to "reboot" the government's digital efforts.

The science and technology committee, chaired by Norman Lamb MP, will be accepting written evidence by Friday 28 September.

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