GDS team on promotional trip to South Korea as minister announces Digital Marketplace sales top £1.5bn.
Skidmore speaking at the D5 summit in Busan, Korea – Photo credit: Cabinet Office
Chris Skidmore, the minister for the constitution, has told the 2016 annual D5 meeting of the world’s leading digital nations that the UK wants to be the “most transparent government in the world”.
The group, which was founded by the governments of Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the UK in 2014, is holding its annual summit in South Korea this week.
Speaking at the D5 summit, Skidmore said that the UK “believes that by making things open, you make things better”, while pledging to share code, methodology and standards with other nations.
This includes efforts the government is making to create an attractive environment for skilled digital professionals, with Skidmore saying that many of the nations “will recognise the challenge of recruiting and retaining the right people”.
He added: “Essentially, we must build our capability, to make government the destination of choice for digital data and technology professionals.
“That’s why we have a designated specialised professions team, to support our plans to transform the civil service giving government the capability to efficiently deliver citizen-facing services.”
Skidmore has been accompanied on the trip by the national technology adviser Liam Maxwell and a contingent from the Government Digital Service, with the aim of promoting the team’s work to the other D5 nations.
The GDS leader Kevin Cunnington recently announced that the government was making further steps to make an official digital, data and technology professions.
Last month, he told a press briefing that digital staff’s pay scales – something that has often been linked to poor staff recruitment and retention in the civil service – would be based on a different set of competencies than the rest of government.
Skimore said that Leanna Jones, the learning and development lead at GDS, would be leading a workshop at the D5 summit to discuss the government’s plans to increase digital and technology capability.
Meanwhile, Skidmore also used the trip to announce that the sales through the UK government’s online procurement platform the Digital Marketplace have exceeded £1.5bn, with 52% being with small businesses.
The previous release of Digital Marketplace sales figures, in August this year, showed sales of £1.475bn, with G-Cloud sales contributing £1.39bn of that total.
The government is also keen to show that it is open for business with smaller companies as part of its efforts to stop taking up long-term, high-value contracts with big suppliers.
However some say this is just rhetoric, pointing to an increase in the number of large contracts been signed by departments in recent months, while smaller suppliers have indicated they are struggling to make the most of G-Cloud.
Despite criticisms back home, Skidmore told the D5 nations that “the barriers have been lowered for small businesses and innovative start-ups to sell digital services to government”.
He said: “We are buying from the best, be they big or small. The determining factor is now, rightly, the technical excellence of a business, not how skillful they are at filling in a procurement form.”
Skidmore added that the UK had shared the code for the Digital Marketplace with the United States and Australia, and the Australian government has recently launched its own version in public beta.
He also praised the UK government’s work on transparent governance, open standards and open data, emphasising the need for collaborative relationships within government, with citizens and between nations.
“We want to be open about what we’re doing so that citizens feel confident and empowered, selling to government is competitive and open, and new technologies are harnessed,” he said.
“We’re committed to collaboration because we know that we can’t achieve what we need to without it.”