Govt’s digital strategy to save £1.8bn a year – if it’s free

The UK government launched its new digital strategy today, confirming its objective to offer more public services over the Internet and to improve and standardise those services.

By delivering more public services online, the government predicts it can save £1.8 billion a year. This is because online services are substantially cheaper per transaction than face-to-face or phone interaction.

However, this estimated saving does not include "the potential costs of a transition to digital", the strategy says. It also does "not include the additional savings that could be gained from fundamental service redesign or back-end technology changes".

To summarise, the strategy aims to improve uptake of digital services by improving their accessibility and usability. In order to do this, the government plans boost the ‘digital’ skill set of the public sector, by training up ‘service managers’ to look after particular online services.

"These [service managers] are not technical IT posts, nor are they confined to running a website. Instead, they are individuals who work full-time to develop and deliver all the changes necessary to provide effective digital services. With a handful of exceptions, this is a new role within government."

All services handling over 100,000 transactions will be "redesigned, operated and improved by a skilled, experienced and empowered Service Manager".

The Cabinet Office will also create a ‘digital by default’ standard. "No new or redesigned service will go live unless they meet this standard," it says.

Common technology platforms across government that will help departments build their online services to the requisite standard.

"Many government services rely on digitised versions of pre-digital business processes, layered on top of legacy IT systems, some of which are over 30 years old," the strategy says.

"[The Cabinet Office] will lead in the definition and delivery of a range of common cross-government technology platforms, in consultation with departments to ensure they meet business needs. These will underpin the new generation of digital services," it explains. "Departments will be expected to use these for new and redesigned services, unless a specific case for exemption is agreed."

The ability to develop shared technology platforms across government was one of the reasons why the Cabinet Office mandated open standards in central government departments last week.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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