GDS needs ‘flexibility and openness’ to continue attracting digital talent

The Head of the Government Digital Service (GDS) has told that when it comes to attracting and retaining digitally-skilled individuals, Government must be “open and flexible”.


In an exclusive interview with, Bracken reflected broadly on the achievements of Cabinet Office’s GDS, which began life as “an idea on a piece of paper” and is now “part of the central machine” he said.

“We have been denuded of these [digital] skills for a long time by our curious favour of outsourcing. It is well documented how many people have left government in the technology space”, said Bracken.

He said there was a need to be adaptable to the career plans of digitally-skilled individuals. “You come here because you want to change public services. We don’t try to force them all into the career path of civil servants. They may just want to do it for a period. That’s fine. We have to be flexible and open in the expectations people have of us”.

‘Digitally-skilled’ included the ability to manage large technology contracts, said Bracken.  

He described the ideal profile as: “people who are ready to transform, disrupt and change services and make a profound difference.  We don’t want people who will just come in and deliver” but “people who can understand that there is a different way of doing things” amid a move towards a ‘government as a platform’ model’, he said.

According to Bracken, the introduction of the role of Chief Digital Officer to act as ambassadors for digital skills within each department “works really well”. More broadly, he said: “having a mix of digital skills at the centre of government is critical to address the problems Governments have.

“There is plenty of work to do. I can’t see a time when any government can do without the skills this internet generation can bring”.

Bracken oversees the GDS Transformation Programme which aims to deliver 25 digital Digital By Default services and improve the digital skills in departments and agencies responsible. Of these exemplar programmes, he said 22 will be in ‘public beta’ phase or live by March 2015.


Mike Bracken spoke to Colin Marrs. The full interview will be published in Civil Service World on 17 October. 

Mel Poluck

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