The UK government and its services need a ‘digital reboot’, says report
- Cloud is key and the explicit aim is to open up government IT-enabled services to third party involvement
- The ambition is to involve them in service delivery in a way that allows citizens to access the services as it best suits them
- The report says things are so urgent that work has to start immediately and it wants all government services in the cloud by 2023!
“The UK government used to be a digital powerhouse, but nine years after the creation of its ‘Government Digital Service (GDS)’, it isn't any longer,” is the blunt assessment of the government’s own Commission for Smart Government, which has just come up with a slew of IT recommendations - a timely move, perhaps, as the UK stumbles out of the EU and tries to focus on the next the six months (or so) of hell that is (hopefully) the tail end of the pandemic.
First, there’s a lot of structural fixing and bureaucratic untangling to be done, says the report.
“Yeah, yeah,” I hear you thinking. “A long to-do-list, compiled by the great and the good. Nothing much will change.”
In fact this could be a very significant paper should its key approaches be adopted. The report does indeed have a long list of recommendations (60), but the important element is its insistence that the only way ahead is to turn everything upside down and initiate a full-blooded adoption of the sort of cloud-oriented transformation that so many companies and indeed, digital service providers, are undertaking at the moment - this is cloudification writ large.
The language is familiar: Fixes are recommended for problem constructs like silos (how to flatten or get rid of them) and why sharing apps and infrastructure is key; why speed and agility can be maximised in a cloud environment; and so on.
This is the gospel according to Saint Cloud with which we’ve all become familiar.
The paper’s executive summary states: “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.”
The paper talks of a digital reboot with a view to the public services becoming “intrinsically digital.” Such a transformation it maintains, would require that ALL services be moved to the cloud by 2023.
Along with that comes urgent reform of digital product procurement; the controversial (of course) introduction of a digital ID for everyone, and a programme to make key decision-makers – ministers and officials – more digitally literate.
Above all, maintains the paper, the approach represents a “better model of public-private cooperation.”
It wants a move from centralised control over all public programmes to facilitating services through inter-connected networks of government departments and agencies and non-governmental entities. Such a system would be much more flexible and able to fund and scale successful initiatives quickly, changing them when circumstances or priorities change.
The policy recognises that “the most important technology transformations in our world have not been deliberately initiated by governments but have in the main happened to governments. From personal computing to the smartphone, the changes have largely been delivered by the private sector and harnessed by the public sector afterwards.“
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