This strategy sets out how the government will become digital by default. It fulfils the commitment we made in the Civil Service Reform Plan.
By digital by default, we mean digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so whilst those who can’t are not excluded.
We estimate that moving services from offline to digital channels will save between £1.7 and £1.8 billion a year.
Government is improving the way it provides information by moving to a single website, GOV.UK. Transactional services now present the biggest opportunity to save people time and save the government money.
People will only choose to use government services digitally if they are far more straightforward and convenient. The vast majority (82%) of the UK population is online but most people rarely use online government services.
The government provides more than 650 transactional services. There is only a handful of these services where a significant majority of people who could use the online option do. Many have a digital option, but few people use it. Half of these don’t offer a digital option at all.
Departmental executive boards will include an active digital leader. Transactional services handling over 100,000 transactions each year will be redesigned, operated and improved by a skilled, experienced and empowered Service Manager.
All departments will ensure that they have the right levels of digital capability in-house, including specialist skills. Cabinet Office will support improved digital capability across departments.
All departments will undertake end-to-end service redesign of all transactional services with over 100,000 transactions each year. All new or redesigned transactional services going live after April 2014 will meet a new digital by default service standard.
There are 7 departments which between them handle the majority of central government transactions. These are:
Each of these departments will agree 3 significant exemplar service transformations with Cabinet Office. These will be identified and published in departmental digital strategies in December 2012, alongside delivery plans. Departments will start to redesign these exemplar services by April 2013 and implement them by March 2015.
Corporate publishing activities of all 24 central government departments will move onto GOV.UK by March 2013, with agency and arm’s length bodies’ online publishing to follow by March 2014.
Departments will raise awareness of their digital services so more people know about and use them, and look at ways to use incentives to encourage digital adoption.
It is important we do not leave anyone behind in this move to a digital by default approach. Departments will recognise and understand the needs of people who can’t use digital services. We will provide appropriate support for these people to use digital services and other ways to access services for people who need them.
Cabinet Office will offer leaner and more lightweight tendering processes, as close to the best practice in industry as our regulatory requirements allow.
Cabinet Office will lead in the definition and delivery of a new suite of common technology platforms, to underpin the new generation of digital by default services.
Cabinet Office will work with departments to amend legislation that unnecessarily prevents us from developing straightforward, convenient digital services.
Departments will supply a consistent set of management information, as defined by Cabinet Office, for their transactional services.
Departments will encourage policy teams to use a wider range of digital tools to communicate with and consult people, both within the UK and overseas.
This strategy is just the beginning. We recognise that the changes required will be far from easy. Our existing processes and ways of working can get in the way, and many will need to change.
By December 2012, each department will publish their own departmental digital strategy explaining what actions they will take to contribute to this strategy. These actions will provide a framework for continuing improvements in their services.
Cabinet Office will operate an annual review process to track departments’ progress against the actions in this strategy.
The strategy does not cover local government services, the NHS, or ways to increase the digital capability of UK citizens. It also does not deal with the expansion of the broadband network which is being led by Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
This strategy contains 14 actions the government will take to become digital by default. Digital by default means digital services which are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use digital services will choose to do so, while those who can’t are not excluded.
This follows the Civil Service Reform Plan by developing services that:
If we successfully transform our services so they are digital by default, we can earn a reputation for offering high-quality, responsive, convenient and up-to-date services.
If we successfully transform our services so they are digital by default, we can earn a reputation for offering high-quality, responsive, convenient and up-to-date services.
We made this commitment in response to the review of Government Online ‘Directgov 2010 and Beyond: Revolution not Evolution’ carried out by Martha Lane Fox as UK Digital Champion in 2010.
In his foreword to the Civil Service Reform Plan, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:
“Central Government where possible must become a digital organisation. These days the best service organisations deliver online everything that can be delivered online. This cuts their costs dramatically and allows access to information and services at times and in ways convenient to the users rather than the providers”.
Each government department will prepare and publish its own departmental digital strategy. These documents will explain how departments will make their services digital by default in ways that work for their users. These strategies will be published by the end of 2012, in time to influence departments’ 2013/14 planning process. They will set the framework for service transformation over the lifetime of the next spending review.
Watch Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, talk about the importance of focusing on user needs and how the Government Digital Strategy is “inspiring” because of its focus on user centred design.
This strategy is mainly about the services provided by central government departments and associated agencies and arm’s length bodies. Some matters covered by the strategy are devolved and reference should be made to the Devolved Administrations for more details as to how this strategy affect their areas.
However, in order to provide public services digitally by default, all public bodies will need to work together. Most public services are provided by local organisations such as local councils and the NHS. People often use a range of services, not just one at a time. Most people and businesses don’t differentiate between different levels and types of public services; they just want a good service.
To help other organisations improve their digital services, we will:
The actions in this strategy are mainly about transactional services such as applications, tax, licensing and payments. The strategy explains how the civil service will develop new skills and approaches to complement its existing expertise. It also includes actions to improve the way the government makes policy and communicates with people.
This strategy is about users of services within the UK. Users overseas will be covered in appropriate departmental strategies.
DCMS is already leading on providing superfast broadband to at least 90% of premises in the UK and providing universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps.
Digital by default services are more efficient and more convenient for users. Our initial testing comparing GOV.UK to the previous Directgov and Businesslink.gov.uk sites shows a more positive rating on both ease of use (93% compared with 75% before) and speed (80 seconds as opposed to 120 seconds to undertake comparable transactions).
Government will save money if demand for higher cost channels decreases. A 2012 SOCITM study across 120 local councils estimated that the cost of contact for face to face transactions averages £8.62, for phone £2.83, but for web only 15 pence. The Digital Efficiency Report found that the average cost of a central government digital transaction can be almost 20 times lower than the cost of telephone and 50 times lower than face to face.
In 2010 HMRC estimated that around 35% of calls to its contact centres were avoidable at an National Audit Office estimated cost of £75 million a year. Changes have since been made to processes, letters and forms that have reduced the total number of calls and the proportion of avoidable calls to around 26% of the total.
On the basis of historical savings achieved by existing digital services we estimate that £1.7 to £1.8 billion of total annual savings could be made by shifting the transactional services offered by central government departments from offline to digital channels. Of this, £1.1 to £1.3 billion will be saved directly by the government, with the rest passed on to service users through lower prices. These figures do not include the potential costs of a transition to digital, but also do not include the additional savings that could be gained from fundamental service redesign or back-end technology changes.
Link to this Figure 1: Digital take up curve, averaged across case study data
Evidence from the Digital Efficiency Report case studies demonstrates public services exhibiting a typical technology adoption S-curve. For services at around 20% digital take-up, there is the opportunity to rapidly increase adoption to 80% within 3 to 5 years. This will be further increased where digitisation is accelerated by a process of fundamental service redesign based on user needs.
Digitising transactional services will save people and businesses time and money; by making transactions faster, reducing the number of failed transactions and simplifying the end-to-end process. Our estimates suggest that an hour spent interacting with government costs the average citizen £14.70. If just half an hour were saved by digitising every transaction currently completed offline, the total savings to the economy could therefore be around £1.8 billion. Furthermore, many public services are run by agencies that recover their costs directly through user charges, so reducing costs provides the potential for savings to be passed on to users.
82% of the UK population are currently online and there is a clear opportunity for government to deliver services digitally to them. Although 77% of adults in the UK use the internet daily, many of them have never had any online interaction with government.
Link to this Figure 2: UK adult population by internet use Source: Cabinet Office, Digital Landscape Survey, August 2012
|82%||Online (access the Internet regularly or occasionally)|
|18%||Offline (never used/rarely used the Internet)|
A growing proportion of people are willing and able to use more complex digital services that involve a high level of trust such as shopping and online banking. An Oxford Internet Institute survey (OxIS) from 2011 shows that the proportion of internet users who shop online grew from 74% in 2005 to 86% in 2011; online banking usage grew from 45% in 2005 to 60% in 2011; and internet users who pay bills online grew from 39% in 2005 to 57% in 2011.
The popularity of online channels is recognised across the private sector, demonstrated by the fact that internet advertising’s share of total UK advertising spend has risen to 33%, well ahead of any other country, as UK advertisers respond to their customers’ attention shifting online.
Furthermore, digital services are rapidly gaining strong reputations and loyalty from users. A recent YouGov poll saw Amazon, Google and iPlayer become the highest-rated brands in the UK, overtaking more traditional companies such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.
The people who use digital services do so for reasons of speed and convenience. The most frequent reasons people gave for choosing to use digital transactions were: it saved me a lot of time (85%), the site was clear and easy to use (62%), and I could do it outside office hours (61%).
54% of UK adults have used a government service/information online, but most of those have used only a small number of services, and many have just used one. Moreover, according to 2011 OxIS research, the number of people using online government services has steadily increased from 39% in 2005 to 57% in 2011, but since 2007 this reach has plateaued.
Link to this Figure 3: Breakdown of UK population by use of government digital services and internet use
|Percentage of UK adult population||Completed digital transactions|
|46%||Online and have used a government transaction online|
|8%||Online and have accessed government information online|
|28%||Online and have not used government information or transactions online|
|6%||Offline and willing to get online|
|12%||Offline and unwilling to get online|
Not everyone is online. Through our assisted digital programme, we will help more people to use online services.
Those in higher socio-economic groups (ABCs) are more likely to be online, with 92% regularly or occasionally accessing the internet. 28% of disabled people are not online (rarely access/have never used the internet), and older people are more likely to be offline than other age groups (however 59% of people aged over 65 are online). Geography doesn’t appear to have too great an influence on whether people access the internet or not, as people are offline in urban, suburban and rural areas.
A third of the people who are offline (ie 6% of the UK population) said they are interested in using the internet, suggesting that the number of people who are online may increase over time.
Digital services must adapt seamlessly to meet the needs of mobile internet users. The new digital service standard will include a requirement to design digital services that are usable on mobile devices as well as desktop and laptop computers.
In recent years there have been large advances in the portability and range of internet enabled devices. This has changed the way users access the internet. The most popular devices used to access the internet are laptops and desktops (73% and 59% respectively), but mobile phone ownership is now widespread (86% of UK adults have a mobile phone). 56% of UK adults own a mobile that is internet-enabled, and their use to access the internet is growing.
The London 2012 Olympic Games provides a recent example of this trend towards mobile use, with over 60% of all visitors to the Games’ website coming from mobile phones.
OxIS research shows that ownership of internet-enabled phones continues to grow among all income groups. This will increase the number of people who can access the internet. There is little correlation between the use of mobiles for the internet and annual income, with 35% of mobile internet users earning above £30,000 and 39% earning below £12,500. With 69% of current non-internet users owning a mobile, there is scope to increase access to internet-based information and services through this route.
Based on banking industry experience, this mobile web usage tends to be focused on simple straightforward transactions, notably progress tracking. This offers the potential to shift a high volume of this type of transaction across to digital self-service, resulting in savings from reduced use of more expensive telephony channels.
Government’s online information services are closer to becoming users’ preferred (default) option than its transactional services.
Government online publishing is in the process of being transformed by the GOV.UK programme, a radical simplification of government web publishing started in 2011 in response to Martha Lane Fox’s review. The GOV.UK website (which replaced the previous Directgov and Businesslink.gov.uk sites in October 2012 in providing government information for citizens and businesses) has already demonstrated that it is simpler, clearer and faster for users.
Government already uses digital channels for most of its communications, marketing and engagement. Most departments and many agencies have developed expertise in using social media and other third-party digital properties such as YouTube to communicate with people and businesses, rather than paying for other channels. The Red Tape Challenge and e-petitions are 2 examples of this approach.
Government has also made some progress in providing convenient, well-used and well regarded transactional digital services. For example, digital is the preferred channel for most users of Companies House, with an 89% online take-up of annual returns search and filing achieved in just 5 years, and for HMRC’s Self Assessment tax service where a record 80% of returns were filed online in 2011/12.
Progress is also being made in making government information and transactions more widely and conveniently available through third parties. Over two thirds of the 7.65 million Self Assessment transactions received online by HMRC are submitted via third-party software and service providers. Over 1,500 such third-party commercial providers are accredited to use HMRC’s third party integration suite (APIs).
Around 30% of digital filings to Companies House are made via its software filing service which offers an API for the transmission of data from commercial software packages. The clients of over 80 software providers use this service.
Transactional services are the primary focus of this strategy. This is because developing transactional services offers the greatest scope to improve efficiency and the customer experience. A focus on developing these makes an important contribution to the government’s Open Public Services agenda, supporting increased personalisation and choice within public services. And despite the progress outlined above, they are also the area where there is the most work to be done to improve the digital offer and increase user take-up.
There is a huge volume of transactions with government. There were around 1 billion individual transactions a year with central government departments in 2011/12. This number rises to nearer 1.5 billion when other governmental organisations such as local government are taken into account.
These transactions are not evenly spread across departments, with just 7 responsible for around 90% of the central government transactions. These are HMRC, DfT, DWP, BIS, DEFRA, MoJ, and the Home Office.
Whilst the majority of transactions are between government and individuals, there are also a significant number of transactions between government and business. This includes some which are very complex and high value (for example farming payments). In these cases, the use of specialist third-party intermediary organisations is common. The process improvements recommended in this strategy will support these arrangements.
Most government transactions fall far short of the standard of the best. Unlike successful digital services in the private sector, government’s online services are not necessarily better or more convenient than other channels, meaning they will not be users’ first choice to transact with us.
For example, in some circumstances it is quicker to apply for some services by phone than by using the existing online service. In 2011, around 150 million calls a year coming into government were self-reported as avoidable. Such failure is frustrating and time-consuming for users but it is also costly for government. If users have to revert back to other channels, then meeting this additional ‘failure demand’ is an unnecessary additional cost.
There are several causes of these failures. 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. They were not designed with a digital service in mind, being built to replicate paper forms and processes rather than taking advantage of opportunities to pre-populate or respond to user’s selections. They have outdated back-end systems which prevent effective data sharing, and/or they have long-term contracts locked into expensive vendors making changes to services costly and slow.
Each service has often been designed individually, rather than developing a consistent approach to user experience across the government digital estate. Hence the user experience of government transactions is inconsistent and unnecessarily confusing, particularly to less confident users.
Leading private sector digital businesses have learned that familiarity drives usage, and usage drives familiarity. This lack of a consistent, high-quality user experience is a critical issue holding back performance and adoption of our digital services.
Despite evidence of growing use of mobile devices as the route into digital channels, only a handful of government digital services cater fully for the needs of mobile internet users. Very few government digital services are flexible or agile enough to keep up with the rapid changes in user behaviour typified by the growth of the mobile sector. If existing lengthy procurement processes and inflexible development models continue, they will be similarly poorly placed to adapt at any pace to future changes in how people prefer to use the internet.
The Civil Service Reform Plan acknowledges that we need to develop the right capability and skills to design, communicate and deliver the high-quality digital services we require. This digital strategy aligns with the Civil Service Capabilities Plan; both will be woven into departments’ own strategic planning, including their new Improvement Plans.
There has been an over-reliance on a handful of large systems integrators, referred to by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) as an ‘oligopoly’. As a result, the civil service does not have the necessary depth of understanding and ownership of our digital channels to act as an “intelligent client”. This makes services less efficient and less effective for users.
There are also weaknesses in the consistency, timeliness, accuracy and scope of management information to measure performance and costs between different services and channels. This means we may miss opportunities to target areas of waste, identify improvement opportunities or measure the benefits of change.
We recognise that not everyone who uses government services is online, and that not everyone will be able to use digital services independently. The government has to ensure fair access to services for those who are entitled to them. To design services that work for users, we need to understand who can use digital services, who can’t, and what else we need to provide for people who aren’t online.
What we provide for people who aren’t online will depend on the service and the needs of the user. Many people who are offline will keep using the services in non-digital ways, such as face to face, by phone and through intermediaries. In some cases, people may be offered help to use the digital channel.
We call this ‘assisted digital’. This is an integral part of providing digital by default services. Departments will consider how they will provide this assistance at the same time as they are digitally transforming their services. Government Digital Service will work with departments to develop a cross-government approach to this issue. This is to ensure those users who need this help receive a consistent service across the multiple services they use.
We want those who are able to use our digital services to do so. For those who can and do use digital services already, the actions outlined in this strategy will result in a better user experience and a wider range of high quality digital services.
To persuade people to use government digital services, we need to improve the quality of the services to make them clearly preferable to the alternatives.
We also need to make people aware of the services that are available. A number of techniques can be used to raise awareness and encourage people to use digital channels. Departments will consider which methods are most appropriate to the context of their service, and the needs of their service users.
Departments will learn from the expertise of organisations who have successfully undertaken ‘channel shift’ to digital services.
Not every step of every interaction with government can, or should, be entirely digitised – a practical driving test can’t be taken online. But even services that inherently involve face to face contact can be redesigned - digitally - around the needs of users.
For example, while over 90% of practical driving tests are booked online, driving examiners still fill in and file paper forms to confirm who has passed their test, adding cost and delay for users that a truly end-to-end digital service could remove. Driving Standards Agency is aiming to trial the introduction of mobile devices so that examiners don’t have to fill in paper forms. They will be able to pass on test information to the next stages of the process more swiftly and efficiently.
Over time, the success of better designed digital services will allow government to reduce the scale and profile of less convenient, less effective and less cost-efficient contact methods (telephony, face to face, post).
The most important part of this strategy is the need to redesign government services to respond to user needs.
We can learn lessons from other organisations which are succeeding in digital transformation such as high street banks or the BBC:
Measured against the European Digital Capability Framework set out below, departments are currently at varying levels of digital maturity.
Link to this Figure 4: European Digital Capability Framework
|5||Digital is at the heart of policy and strategy. Services are digital by default. Digital culture is strong: agile, user-centred, innovative, responsive.|
|4||Senior management have made significant progress in delivering the vision and plan, implementing new capability and trialling it successfully by re-engineering a range of services to be digital by default.|
|3||Senior management in place with a remit to set targets, develop over-arching vision and plan, and develop necessary capability and culture. Digital is seen as a key transformation and advocacy is strong at key parts of the organisation.|
|2||Some digital services, but often of limited quality. Digital teams in place but tend to be siloed in business units or service/programme teams and have limited budget and remit. Senior (board level) digital management not in place.|
|1||No awareness of digital capability, no resources allocated, no digital strategy, plan or metrics, no understanding of best practice, no digital services.|
By taking the approaches and actions set out in Section 9 we will make progress in all departments towards the highest levels of strong, agile, responsive and, above all, user-centred digital service provision.
We have 14 actions, which we group under 11 principles.
Departments will publish their own digital strategies by the end of 2012 setting out how they and their agencies and arm’s length bodies will apply these principles to transform their own services to make them digital by default.
“Proven leadership in digital transformation”
Martha Lane Fox, Antonia Romeo (MOJ) and Ian Trenholm (DEFRA) talk about the impact of high-level digital leadership. Read more »
Roo Reynolds (GDS), Nikki Marsh (DWP) and Carolyn Williams (DVLA) talk about redesigning services the digital way. Read more »
Government Digital Service will:
Private sector organisations that have been at the forefront of delivering digital transformation have repeatedly indicated the importance of leadership at all levels to their success. It is therefore important that we ensure that suitably skilled and empowered leadership is in place within departments and agencies to lead service transformation.
Digital Leaders will provide active senior leadership for departmental digital strategies and activities and provide expertise and challenge to their boards. Cabinet Office will help boards to identify Digital Leaders with suitable experience and skills (role specification in Annex 5). These will usually be members of the departmental executive (or management) board. In a number of departments, these are already in place.
In agencies and arm’s length bodies that deliver significant transactional services, similar active board-level leadership is critical to achieving successful service transformation.
Outside government, organisations in the public and private sector are learning that empowered, experienced and highly skilled managers (often called Product Managers in the commercial world) are necessary to deliver high-quality digital services.
Government will adopt the same model, and ensure each of its transactional digital services handling over 100,000 transactions each year is developed, operated and continually improved by an experienced, skilled and empowered Service Manager. These 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. These Service Managers will:
Cabinet Office will help departments to recruit suitably skilled individuals. Newly appointed Service Managers will be supported by Cabinet Office through a specialist training programme run by the Government Digital Service. This will include the hands-on process of designing and prototyping a digital service.
“Becoming a digital civil service”
Roger Oldham (MOJ), Sue Unerman (MediaCom) and staff from the Government Digital Service talk about the importance of digital capabilities. Read more »
Alice Newton talks about developing projects for Number 10 and beyond in the Technology in Business Fast Stream. Read more »
Government Digital Service will:
All departments should ensure that they have appropriate in-house specialist digital capability, including the management of their portfolio of digital services. This capability will vary in size and skill-sets depending on the balance of information and services the department is responsible for. It will typically include specialist digital skills in digital service design, development, analytics, digital strategy, online publishing and product management. Departments with lower volumes of transactions could share specialist digital resources.
Government Digital Service is already working with departments to support 7 transformational service redesign projects. This support will continue, and be extended. Annex 2 describes the support that is available.
To complement this internal development, approaches to recruitment will need to be adapted to attract staff with appropriate skills from outside government. Departments will also provide opportunities for existing staff to develop the required digital skills.
Government Digital Service will help Civil Service Learning to develop training for Senior Civil Servants to raise their awareness of the opportunities offered by digital to improve a wide range of policy outcomes.
Digital skills and leadership will be incorporated into the new government-wide approach to active corporate management of current and future leadership from Fast Stream through to future Permanent Secretaries (set out in the Civil Service Reform Plan).
Where possible Fast Stream entrants should spend one of their six month placements during their first two years in a digital role. The new Future Leaders Scheme will aim to give middle managers operational management experience in a digitally delivered service area as part of overall career planning.
General digital training activity across the wider civil service will be included in the government’s capability building programme, led by Civil Service Learning. Departments will ensure appropriate levels of digital skills are part of core competencies, performance and objective-setting frameworks at all levels.
“Digital services so good that all who can use them, prefer to use them”
For the 7 ‘transactional’ departments (HMRC, DfT, DWP, BIS, DEFRA, MoJ, and the Home Office):
For the remaining departments:
Phil Pavitt talks about HMRC’s efforts to update and modernise its services. Read more »
Government Digital Service will:
Government digital services are inconsistent and often do not meet the standards that users expect. To ensure that users receive a consistently high-quality digital experience from government, Cabinet Office will develop a service standard for all digital services. No new or redesigned service will go live unless they meet this standard.
The full standard will be published by the Cabinet Office by April 2013.
In summary, it will require redesigned digital services to:
Where services are outsourced on a payment by results basis we will ensure a consistent and high quality user experience, aligned with the digital by default service standard.
An indicative outline of this service standard is available in Annex 3.
The majority of the benefits will be achieved by the 7 transactional departments. Therefore we will focus on redesigning their services as a first priority, with three ‘exemplar’ services in each of these departments receiving end to end redesign by March 2015.
Service redesign and prototyping work for these exemplar services will start in April 2013 or earlier. For each service identified for redevelopment, a proposed delivery plan will be prepared, showing how the department will resource the project including meeting the challenges in senior digital leadership, appointing a suitably skilled Service Manager to lead from the inception of the redesign process, and undertaking service design and project and product management. Any funding required will be found by departments from within existing budgets, re-prioritised where necessary.
Departments will share the learning from the transformation of these exemplar services to increase digital capability across the civil service.
All departments will redesign all their transactional services that handle over 100,000 transactions each year for completion by the end of the next spending review period. In November 2012 there were 152 transactions that met this threshold. In exceptional circumstances departments may seek an exemption from this requirement; for example where a business case for digital by default service design does not demonstrate good value for money. Any put forward would be agreed at a cross-government level.
Departments will identify which services they transform first, for agreement with Cabinet Office. Annex 4 identifies a number of criteria which departments should consider when selecting which services to redesign to ensure the greatest benefit to users and savings to government. We recognise that DWP’s introduction of Universal Credit means that a major and wide-reaching digital transformation programme affecting all areas of the department is already underway. As such, Cabinet Office will take a flexible approach as to any further commitments to redesigning services prior to March 2015.
Cabinet Office will measure progress annually and publish the results.
Departments with direct responsibility for fewer than 1 million transactions each year will transfer their information on to GOV.UK, but their departmental digital strategies will include clear plans for the future transformation of their services to digital by default.
The Government Digital Service is already supporting 7 transactional transformation projects across central government (see table below). It will increase the scale of this support.
Link to this Figure 5: Existing transformation programmes supported by Government Digital Service
|Electoral Registration Transformation Programme (ERTP)||Cabinet Office||Deliver a business change to electoral registration. Moving from household to individual registration, to achieve a complete and accurate electoral register||Delivery|
|Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)||MoJ||Developing digital prototypes to replace aspects of business that are entirely paper-based||Delivery|
|Rural Payments Agency (RPA)||DEFRA||Developing a new approach for the replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy registration, assessment and payment systems||Feasibility|
|Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)||DfT||Developing a new approach to decommissioning of legacy infrastructure and move to ‘greenfield’ development||Feasibility|
|Carers Allowance||DWP||Exploring ways in which to develop and improve the existing Carers Allowance online system||Feasibility|
|Student Loans (SLC)||BIS||Developing an improvement programme for Student Finance service’s digital products||Delivery|
|Land Registry||BIS||Improving local land charges processes||Assessment|
“Simpler, clearer and faster for users”
Government Digital Service will:
In October 2012, government took the first step towards enabling access to all departments’, agencies’ and arms length bodies’ digital information and transactional services to citizens and businesses using one web address. GOV.UK has replaced Directgov and Businesslink.gov.uk as a single domain for government on the web.
GOV.UK has demonstrated how these methodologies can deliver high quality digital products that meet user needs, and are more efficient for government. In large scale user testing, 93% of users rated GOV.UK as very/quite easy to use versus 75% for Directgov. Similarly, when looking for information, respondents using GOV.UK took an average of 80 seconds, as opposed to 120 seconds on Directgov.
Between November 2012 to March 2013, the corporate publishing activities of 24 government departments will move onto GOV.UK. By March 2014, the information publishing aspects of all department, agency and arms length bodies websites (other than those granted a specific business-based exemption) will transfer to GOV.UK.
“More users, using more services, more often”
Government Digital Service will:
In order to maximise the benefits from transformed digital services, departments must work to accelerate their take-up, shifting users able to access the internet away from non-digital channels. Departmental digital strategies will include clear plans for encouraging the move from offline to digital channels, through awareness raising, involvement of front-line staff and appropriate use of incentives.
Departments will re-assess the effectiveness of their promotional activities to maximise the awareness of new and existing digital services, and encourage those who could use them to trial them. This does not have to involve expensive marketing campaigns. It will build on service experience and expertise in behavioural insight and behaviour change in the public and private sectors to raise the profile of digital services, and encourage users to use them.
A key element of the channel shift approach will involve existing front-line staff (both face to face and telephony). They should be made proficient in the use of digital services and encouraged, trained and equipped to support people in trialling and using the services themselves (for example by having the same front end access to a service system as the user, making explanation and support more straightforward). As digital take-up increases, the role of front-line staff may evolve.
As well as ensuring users are aware of digital channels, the transition to digital as the channel of choice can be facilitated by use of incentives. A number of techniques have been trialled, such as passing on lower costs where fees are based on cost recovery, as Companies House did for company registrations; allowing later deadlines for online process completion, as used in HMRC’s personal tax assessment transactions; or by entries into prize draws for online users, as offered by DVLA. Departments will be encouraged to trial a range of positive incentives to encourage digital adoption.
The Government Digital Service will work with Service Managers to collate and share experience and tools developed through initial transformation projects, as well as drawing in appropriate expertise from the commercial sector to share experience and techniques for facilitating channel shift.
“Services for everyone entitled to them”
Marketa Mach, CEO of Go ON UK, talks about their work making sure that no-one is left behind by the growth of digital services. Read more »
This means that people who have rarely or never been online will be able to access services offline, and we will provide additional ways for them to use the digital services
Government Digital Service will continue to:
The government has to provide public services to everyone who is entitled to them. 18% of adults have rarely or never been online. Digital by default means that digital self-service is the default option for people who can use it, not the only option.
To ensure that people who are offline can access digital by default services, we will offer them ways to access services offline, and we will provide additional ways for them to use the digital services. These services must be designed to meet user needs. We call this ‘assisted digital’.
We need to make sure that government takes a consistent approach to providing services for people who have rarely or never been online. This will be better for users and more efficient for government.
The approach will include a range of possible ways to provide services for people who are rarely or never online, depending on what the user needs are and how complex the service is. For example, for simpler transactions with a small proportion of users who don’t use online services, departments may use contact centres to provide another way to access the service. For more complex transactions and a high proportion of people who are not online, departments may use a mix of face to face, phone and paper support. Face to face support may involve having people helping users to do their transaction on terminals, or a user being able to give their details to a person who will enter it into the digital service on their behalf.
Front-line staff have a vital role to play. They will support users who need help with digital services and continue to provide other ways for people who are not online to access services. Private or voluntary and community sector organisations may also be involved.
The Government Digital Service, departments and stakeholders including Age UK, Post Office, Online Centres Foundation, Citizens Advice, Go ON UK, Society of Chief Librarians, Digital Unite, Communications Consumer Panel, Carers UK, UCanDoIT, Shelter, Shaw Trust, and Lasa are working together on the cross-government approach to assisted digital. Within government, we are also working with Arts Council England and BDUK.
The government will publish plans by December 2012. Departmental digital strategies will also reflect these plans.
This strategy is not about generally encouraging more people to go online, or increasing people’s skills to use digital services. Departments with larger proportions of users who are not online may wish to supplement their assisted digital provision with activity to increase the digital capability of their users. If so, this would be funded by existing departmental budgets. As well as developing the approach to assisted digital, the Government Digital Service is collaborating with Go ON UK in their work to help make the UK the most digitally capable nation in the world.
“Get the best bidders bidding”
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Government Digital Service will continue to:
In 2009, the public sector spent around 1% of GDP on IT. Departments currently rely on a few, large systems integrators to supply their digital requirements. They can lack the in-house expertise to act as a challenging and informed client, and this has resulted in expensive and inflexible long-term contracts which do not support delivery of services likely to meet the forthcoming digital service standard.
However, the UK has a burgeoning digital technology sector with a wide range of highly skilled and innovative companies, including small and medium sized enterprises who are often unable to access the government procurement market due to high barriers to entry and complex, expensive and often frustrating processes.
The need to redesign services to be digital by default is an opportunity to secure greater value for government, by changing how we commission our services, developing in-house capabilities and reducing our reliance on a few large systems integrators. Cabinet Office will build on existing procurement reform to develop new commissioning arrangements for digital projects, to encourage a wider range of bidders, including small and medium sized enterprises.
This will be accompanied by training and awareness raising for departmental procurement leads on the requirements for the new approach. To achieve this shift, there will be a recognition that work will not inevitably go to the cheapest bidder, but that more flexible contracts with suppliers will be explored and assessed with a view to what longer-term value they will bring to government by providing agile and scalable solutions that meet user needs.
A number of new techniques will be introduced to the commissioning process to enable departments to gain a deeper understanding of the capabilities of prospective suppliers. These may include collaborative procurement techniques where face to face time is maximised with prospective suppliers and scenarios are used to understand supplier capabilities and approaches. Another technique may see the use of prototyping, where ‘model’ systems will be constructed for prospective suppliers to prove their integration capabilities and technical prowess of their staff. Both of these methods will be supported by fair and objective scoring.
The ICT Strategy stressed the need for government to procure its technical infrastructure - its servers, internet hosting, etc - as commodity services. The CloudStore framework is an example of this shift, with over 300 suppliers offering cloud-based solutions on a pay-as-you-use basis, with a maximum 12 months contract. The learning from the development of the CloudStore framework will be fed into other digital procurement and commissioning reform.
“Develop on platforms, not in silos”
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Government Digital Service will:
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. Departments will be expected to use these for new and redesigned services, unless a specific case for exemption is agreed.
We know that our users often find it hard to register for our online services, so it is vital that we offer a more straightforward, secure way to allow our users to identify themselves online while preserving their privacy. The Identity Assurance programme in the Cabinet Office will continue to develop a framework to enable federated identity assurance to be adopted across government services in due course. All our work in this area is guided by the Identity and Privacy Principles drawn up by our Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group.
The Government Digital Service is also developing a data insight platform that will combine a range of data including analytics, web operations and financial information. Using clear visualisations, it will provide high level performance reports for leaders and more detailed data for Service Managers.
“A letter shouldn’t have to be on paper”
Government Digital Service will:
In a few areas, laws made before the digital age can severely constrain the development of simple, convenient digital services. For example, HMRC have to provide tax coding notifications on paper rather than by electronic channels. Cabinet Office will work with departments to identify these potential barriers and ways to remove them. This could mean either reviewing current restrictive interpretations of laws passed before digital methods existed or, in some cases, by considering whether legislation needs to be changed. The Red Tape Challenge is examining some 6,500 substantive regulations and identifying at least 3,000 to scrap or overhaul. This includes finding ways to reduce burdens for businesses, taxpayers and individuals by moving to digital methods.
Policy and legal experts will work closely with digital specialists and those who are responsible for designing services to find a solution to any problems identified. We will hold these discussions early in each design process and continue them throughout development (some may also emerge during implementation and operational stages). We will share the solutions widely across departments to help with consistency and smoother joint working.
“Data trumps intuition”
Richard Sargeant talks about how his team have helped to define performance information at the Government Digital Service. Read more »
Government Digital Service will:
Service Managers and decision-makers need high quality, consistent management information to make sound decisions and help them monitor and improve performance. Some services collect and assess detailed performance data but most digital services still do not have good enough management information.
Cabinet Office will establish a consistent set of management information measures which departments will use, meaning they can effectively compare performance across time and against similar services. Collection of this information will be built into every new or redesigned digital service.
Reliable management information makes it possible for good performers to be identified and given recognition. Service performance will not only be bench-marked against historical performance, but also standards recognised as best practice.
Service performance will be measured through a clear and consistent set of indicators. These will include:
“Open policy making will become the default”
Stephen Hale and Rachel Neaman talk about developing policy with the help of social media and digital consultation at the Department of Health. Read more »
Government Digital Service will:
Transactional services and information are the primary focus of our digital by default approach, but digital also provides ways to improve the broader policy making process, through better engagement and consultation. It has the potential to transform democratic participation in the policy process, and improve the design of policy itself. The Civil Service Reform Plan states “Open policy making will become the default” and we will use digital to achieve that outcome.
We have already developed better skills in listening and responding to public feedback through digital channels. In May 2012, social media guidelines were issued to civil servants based on 6 principles – that government should:
Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:
“When civil servants, policy makers and service delivery units alike, open themselves to dialogue with the public they can glean a much better understanding of the real needs and concerns of citizens. They can keep up to date with the latest thinking as well as being a listening post and avenue for real time reassurance and information”.
Civil servants are exploring the opportunities social media offers, whether by entering into dialogue, consulting and engaging, improving their policy making or simply listening to people’s concerns. For example, Department of Health made a draft Bill openly available for comment online using social media in July 2012. This increased openness and made it straightforward for people to comment on individual clauses or topics before the Bill was introduced to Parliament. This ran alongside other offline stakeholder engagement. The Red Tape Challenge website ‘crowd sources’ views from business, organisations and the public on which regulations should be improved, kept ‘as is’ or scrapped. These comments have directly influenced the decisions to scrap or overhaul over 1,100 regulations (of the 2,300 examined by November 2012).
Departments will train and develop policy teams to understand and use a wider range of digital methods and channels. They will use these to engage and consult with the public on a daily basis around areas of policy development, up to and including formal consultations. Cabinet Office will also provide training to policy teams on the potential of digital by default approaches as they draw up policy proposals.
We are developing a range of consultation and engagement tools as part of GOV.UK, supported by guidance to civil servants on effective online consultation techniques and approaches.
The transformation team works with departments, agencies, non-departmental public bodies and arms length bodies on their digital transformation projects. It helps establish what departments do, who departments do it for, legacy challenges, in-house digital capability, and savings opportunities from channel shift and technology replacement. It supports them using either a co-delivery or consultancy model.
The main objective is to provide user-focused, cost effective and maintainable digital services.
Departmental propositions are assessed at different stages of the process but a common theme runs throughout:
Given the above, a recommendation is put forward.
Departments are encouraged to use the same assessment criteria during their own service proposition (portfolio) management process.
An example of an existing departmental proposition management process is given below.
The digital by default standard will define what is considered high quality for a new or redesigned digital transactional service. It will be used across government to ensure that all digital services are of a consistently high standard.
The guidance and tools supporting the standard will help Service Managers to design trusted, cost-effective government services that are embraced by users and meet their needs first time. Government Digital Service will ensure there is a common understanding across government of what outcomes are required to meet the standard. This understanding must be shared by everyone involved in the development and life of a new or redesigned digital service.
The standard will be accompanied by:
The following description of the standard represents an early draft of what it may contain. Any numbers contained within it are indicative and subject to change. This will be improved over the next few months as Government Digital Service adds more detailed definition and supporting evidence behind the standard’s requirements in terms of performance outcomes and capabilities. Government Digital Service will consult with departments on the details of the standard.
Judgements about the quality of a redesigned service should ultimately be made by its users. The digital standard will set out metrics for monitoring and evaluating how well user needs are being met by redesigned services, and a capability checklist to guide Service Managers and designers in building the transactions to meet those needs. All new and redesigned services must perform well across a range of areas to meet this standard.
Government Digital Service will consult with departments on the details of the digital standard over the next 6 months.
Redesigned transactional services should be:
Redesigned transactional services will be:
Redesigned transactional services should be:
Transactional services will be redesigned to:
Government Digital Service will actively support transactional Service Managers in helping them to commission, design, build and iteratively improve services that meet and maintain the digital by default standard.
Government Digital Service has already produced a number of best practice guidance documents to support departments looking to improve the quality of their transactional service and digital offering, including the Design Principles and Performance Framework. Building on and incorporating these products, Government Digital Service will develop a ‘handbook’ to support the digital by default standard, with practical steps and best practice examples to bring the steps redesigned services will take to life. This will include information to cover all core capability requirements set out in the standard.
Government Digital Service will work closely with departments on the development of the guidance and ensure it remains a working document. It will seek to iteratively improve this as further examples of good practice come to light, and encourage Service Managers to inform future versions.
To accompany the written guidance, Government Digital Service will set up a series of training and tutorial opportunities for Service Managers. These will be based around a core curriculum that covers the capabilities as set out in the standard, and focused on areas which the Service Managers themselves raise as being particularly valuable in terms of targeted support and expert advice.
Government Digital Service will bring in government and external experts from areas such as web analytics, data visualisation and user testing to support this curriculum, and give Service Managers the networks, opportunities and forums to share knowledge between themselves.
Where departments have nominated specific large transactional services for redesign, Government Digital Service will seek to provide targeted project support. The terms and level of involvement will be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the level and type of transformation in scope.
For all new and redesigned services, progress should be continually measured against performance outcomes by Service Managers, using the reporting tool built by Government Digital Service. Government Digital Service will monitor at intervals according to the size of the service.
All services will undergo a formal review ahead of launch. After launch, they will continue to be continually monitored by Service Managers and by Government Digital Service at regular intervals to ensure that the standard is being maintained and services are iteratively improved.
Link to this Figure 6: Digital by default assessment process
|‘Alpha’ build||‘Beta’ build||v1.0 build||Iterative improvement|
|< 100,000 txns / year||Self assessment against standard by departmental service management teams||Self assessment against standard by departmental service management teams||Self assessment against standard by departmental teams + GDS challenge function||Self assessment against standard by departmental service management teams|
|> 100,000 txns / year, not nominated||Self assessment against standard by departmental service management teams||Self assessment against standard by departmental teams + GDS challenge function||Joint GDS / departmental pre-go live assessment against standard||Self assessment against standard by departmental teams + annual GDS review|
|Top 3 services nominated for redesign by depts||Joint proposition assessment against standard by departmental teams + GDS||Joint assessment against standard by departmental teams + GDS||Joint GDS / departmental pre-go live assessment against standard||Self assessment against standard by departmental teams + annual GDS review|
Departments will be responsible for how they plan the redesign of their services.
Departmental decisions on priorities for determining the order that services come forward for end-to-end redesign will therefore vary according to circumstances and opportunities, but prioritisation could be based on any of the following:
A new Digital Leaders Network was established in early 2012 to drive forward the digital agenda across government. The network is run by the Government Digital Service and is made up of a departmental Digital Leader from each main government department, plus Digital Leaders from each of the Devolved Administrations. A draft job description was reviewed at the Digital Leaders meeting on 27 March 2012. It was amended following the meeting to include a specific job description to reflect the slightly different role of the Devolved Administration members.
Board / Executive Team member
Director General / Executive Director level
Experience of leading large scale transformation programs inside/outside government
Digitally aware and willing to learn from internal and external leaders