Give DCMS responsibility for GDS, urges think tank

Former Cabinet Office minister says "it's time to reboot" government digital efforts

Responsibility for the UK government's technology initiatives should be moved wholesale to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to a major think tank.

Whitehall should shift the Government Digital Service (GDS), which currently operates under the oversight of the Cabinet Office, into DCMS, urged a report by think tank Policy Exchange.

DCMS has already stripped GDS of its data policy and governance functions, tucking both under its wing over Easter.

But having the Cabinet Office in charge of some digital initiatives and DCMS leading on others which "adds organisational complexity, diffuses accountability and slows the overall progress of transformation" the think tank contends, adding that DCMS's sport portfolio should be moved to the Department of Health.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"Bringing all of GDS together into DCMS would help create a more coherent Department for Digital and Culture, able to focus on all aspects of digital transformation across the public and private sector," its report, called The Smart State, reads.

GDS started in 2011 with a remit to digitise government's public services, improving access for millions of people. It centralised government body websites under Gov.uk and digitised services such as passport renewals, driving licence applications and registering to vote.

Led by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister at the time, and GDS chief Mike Bracken, GDS also spearheaded concepts like using smaller suppliers for IT contracts and re-using digital services built in-house (government-as-a-platform) to reduce costly duplication of services.

Since their departures, however, GDS has moved into a more advisory role, with departments leading on their own digital initiatives.

Writing the foreword to yesterday's report, Maude said: "There are worrying signs that in recent years progress has slipped. Without constant pressure from the centre, the natural tendency in any large organisation is for individual departments to slip back into defensive isolation.

"Government-as-a-platform will not happen without clear direction from the top. It is time to reboot. Government 2.0 is overdue."

Under Policy Exchange's recommendations, DCMS would gain "full leadership" of projects like the AI Sector Deal, a public-private partnership to fund innovation in machine learning.

GDS would also be tasked with creating single digital government accounts for citizens over the next three years that list all the services a citizen is using, who has access to their data, and allow them to see the level of performance of their local public services.

The concept of digital IDs is already being explored by GDS with the Verify project, which it aims to bring to 25 million people by 2020, according to its Government Transformation Strategy.

But other departments, including HMRC, are developing their own identity tools in tandem.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Policy Exchange would like to hand GDS more power over departments, suggesting that it score departments' progress on delivering digital transformation objectives, and work with the government's chief data officer to open up public data through common standards.

It also recommends that GDS work with the UK data watchdog - the Information Commissioner's Office, and the new Centre for Data Ethics on creating 'privacy by default' guidelines for public bodies that handle people's personal data.

Advertisement - Article continues below

IT Pro has approached the Cabinet Office and DCMS for comment.

Featured Resources

What you need to know about migrating to SAP S/4HANA

Factors to assess how and when to begin migration

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

Testing for compliance just became easier

How you can use technology to ensure compliance in your organisation

Download now

Best practices for implementing security awareness training

How to develop a security awareness programme that will actually change behaviour

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/microsoft-windows/32066/what-to-do-if-youre-still-running-windows-7
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
Visit/operating-systems/25802/17-windows-10-problems-and-how-to-fix-them
operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
Visit/hardware/laptops/354533/dell-xps-13-new-9300-hands-on-review-chasing-perfection
Laptops

Dell XPS 13 (New 9300) hands-on review: Chasing perfection

14 Jan 2020
Visit/web-browser/30394/what-is-http-error-503-and-how-do-you-fix-it
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020