In conversation with Kevin Cunnington, Director General, Government Digital Service

1.The UK is seen as an exemplar of eGovernment by many around the world. What do you think it is about GDS’s approach that has been so effective in leading this change?

The UK is the world’s number 1 e-government, according to the UN. The World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer ranks us as the world leader in open data.

This success is built on our digital by default strategy, which has seen government design, redesign and set up user-focused digital services around a range of life events. You can now register to vote, manage your tax and renew your passport using the digital services linked from GOV.UK, which is the online home of government’s services and information.

GDS has created a range of cost-effective components that solve common problems across central and local government as well as the wider public sector. We call this toolkit Government as a Platform (GaaP). This includes things like the GOV.UK Notify notifications platform is being used by 70 services in different departments – so far it has been used to send more than 12 million emails, text messages and letters to users.

The Digital Marketplace, in partnership with Crown Commercial Service, is transforming government procurement. It’s making it easy for suppliers to sell to government so that we can deliver great digital services. Over £2.6billion has been spent so far through the Digital Marketplace on

digital and IT services by central government, local government and wider public

sector and 45% of that has gone to SMEs.

On open data, we continue to lead the world. We’ve published nearly 40,000 open datasets and 17 registers – with more than 40 in the pipeline.

The Government Transformation Strategy, which we published at the start of the year, outlines our focus now, which is to transform the way government operates and to create end-to-end user-focused services.

All of the above, has helped us become, and continue to be, the world’s number 1 e-government according to the UN.

2.What will be your key priorities over the coming year?

The Transformation Strategy sets out the need to build internal digital and transformation capability across government. We’ve created 37 common and consistent job roles, helped departments bring in senior digital talent and we’re looking to train 3,000 people a year through the GDS Academy. All of this is to support departments in their own transformation work.

GDS is also bringing in more people to specifically work with departments on this. We will support them to develop their digital skills, access data held by other departments, use innovative technologies and continue to recruit the right people.

We’re continuing to look at our own recruitment and diversity. All interview panels at GDS now have a Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) representative and BAME recruits represent 20% of people currently joining GDS.

GOV.UK, the single website for government, celebrated its 5th anniversary this year. GOV.UK turned 1,884 websites into a single site for government, which is visited more than 3 million times every day. We will build on its success, to ensure that users can always get the information and services they need from government.

We will also continue to develop common components and to drive their adoption across government. And GOV.UK Verifyremains a high priority. As public-sector use increases we are also looking at how this identity service can also benefit the wider economy.

 

3.How do you hope to engage with local government and the wider public sector to achieve these goals?

GDS is committed to working as widely as we can to achieve our goals and help others to achieve theirs. We will have additional GDS regional staff in Leeds and Bristol and are looking at other locations around the country. We operate the GDS Academy in Leeds, London, Stockport and Newcastle, as well as a partnership with the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.

A number of local authorities around the country are already using services from our Government as a Platform toolkit and we will continue to drive their adoption.

Chris Ferguson, our director of National, International and Research, is leading engagement with local authorities and the wider public sector and this is an area we will continue to drive forward.

 

4.There are some fears that digital has lost momentum as a result of more distracting political events. To what extent do you think this is the case?

At the beginning of the year we published the Transformation Strategy, which lays out our ambitious vision to transform government. We are delivering against a series of manifesto commitments to build government’s digital capability. And we are working directly with departments to help them build their own skills and capability and to prepare for EU exit.

We have launched tools and resources for teams across government, including the Service Toolkit and updates to the Service Manual. We have developed a new taxonomy and navigation for GOV.UK and are working with departments to transform content. We have created a new job role framework for the Digital, Data and Technology profession across government. We have launched GOVWifi, which is being used in more than 100 locations across the country. We have been supporting service teams across government through the Digital Service Standard and we are now collaborating with these teams to update the standard to support user-focused, end-to-end services.

We have a strong mandate for our work, we are collaborating closely with the rest of government and we are delivering at pace.