The orginal article was posted on GovernSmarter here.
Following research and analysis across the Commission for Smart Government’s Technology and Data workstreams, this paper presents the Commission’s programme of recommendations on Better Digital Government.
Digitally, the UK Government has fallen behind. It used to be a digital powerhouse, but nine years after the creation of the Government Digital Service (GDS), it isn’t any longer. The rolling IT problems that the NHS has encountered during the pandemic – from the NHS app to the problems during the vaccine roll-out – show that digital underperformance has serious consequences for the quality of critical services and can lead to increased popular disaffection with government and politics. Good digital government can underpin recovery and renewal, and project confidence and momentum at home and overseas.
That is why matters have to change. In this paper, we propose nearly 60 recommendations for the UK Government to enact urgent improvements.
In seeking reform, it is easy to focus on the external interface of government – websites and apps, for example. Or to be enthused (or frightened by) the application of Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence to public service. But the change required today is much more comprehensive; Whitehall needs a digital reboot. Public services need to become intrinsically digital. That requires government to move all services to the cloud by 2023, urgently reform procurement of digital products, introduce a digital ID for everyone and make key decisions-makers – ministers and officials alike – more digitally literate.
In order to move decisively towards this change, we recommend that:
Departmental silos are broken down by handing a number of departmentally-run services to cross-cutting Digital Task Forces who will have the remit to design and deliver the services anew and mandate the changes needed to legacy systems.
A new National Digital Council is created on par with the National Security Council to elevate digital issues to the top of the Government’s agenda.
A new Department of Digital, Innovation and Technology is established from the different digital, innovation and science competencies of BEIS, DCMS, and the Cabinet Office.
An Office for Digital Effectiveness is set up, much like the Office for Budget Responsibility, to measure the effectiveness of digital programmes in the public sector.
The role of Government Chief Digital Officer is urgently filled and empowered to lead transformation including across departments, doubling as the Prime Minister’s Chief Technology Adviser.
Set up a Digital Ombudsman to allow citizens and businesses an independent complaint handling service for complaints about digital public services.
Download the report here