Government to simplify Digital Services framework contracts

Digital officials are working to slash the length of contracts under the Digital Services framework after estimating current versions take at least six hours to read.

In a blog post, Government Digital Service head of strategy Warren Smith said that work was being carried out to apply “user-centred design principles” to the third iteration of the framework agreement and call-off contract.

At the beginning of this month, Tony Singleton, director of the digital commercial programme at GDS, said yesterday that user feedback meant that it would be changing its approach to the third iteration of the framework, due to launch later this year.

And yesterday, Smith said: “At the moment, the Digital Services contract documents contain over 88,000 words.

“Based on an average adult reading speed (around 250 words per minute), it would take six hours to read them, and that’s assuming that a single read-through would be enough to comprehend the contract.”

He said contracts were often worded negatively, in ways that “suggest an expectation that something’s going to go wrong.”

“Lots of content uses negative or controlling language, for example termination, consequences, liabilities, penalties, prevention, safeguarding, dispute and so on,” he said.

The overhaul would rid Digital Services 3 of obscure terminology, duplicate content, a lack of structure, poor layout, and “the unnecessary volume of words used”.

The move is aimed at making it simpler for buyers and suppliers to access the framework.

Writing about a separate project for the Ministry of Justice, government director of digital Mike Bracken said: “There are two ways to deal with legal jargon: either rewrite it in plain English, or keep it and provide plain English notes that explain the legalase.”

GDS is currently hosting a series of what is has dubbed “contract design jams” to discuss improvements to the wording of government contracts.

Colin Marrs

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