Socitm calls for government-as-a-platform clarity

Central government needs to make it clear whether local government would be charged to use government-as-a-platform services that are under development, according to Socitm.

The representative body for council ICT staff said that services including GOV.UK, Verify, Notify and Pay could be easily extended to local public services.

However, it said that although some work would be needed to make the services suitable for councils and other local organisations, doing so could lead to cost savings.

But it said there were key questions to resolve, in particular who would pay for any extension.

In a statement, Socitm said: “For example, government departments currently do not have to pay for GOV.UK Notify usage that falls within a pre-determined allowance, since this avoids the bureaucratic costs of cross-charging and also encourages take up.

“Local government and third sector organisations need to be clear about whether they would get a GDS-subsidised usage allowance too, were they to take up the platform services.”

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Other issues to overcome include the difficulty that children and the elderly main find in gaining authentication under the current GOV.UK Verify arrangements.

Socitm also raised questions about how the Verify system would sit alongside an ID system developed by the NHS, as well as local authority citizen account registers and Scotland’s account.

Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm, said: “From a central-local public service perspective, successful channel shift to online is crucial to achieving savings required by the austerity programme, as well as bringing the full spectrum of public services into the modern digital age’ says. 

“Reusability of well-designed, fit-for-purpose service platforms is critical to realising this vision on a big scale.”

He said that the newly-created Local Digital Coalition would be taking up these questions directly with central government and the Government Digital Service in the coming months.

Colin Marrs

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