New report lifts lid on frustrations and tensions within government over role of Government Digital Service
Theresa May’s government has shown limited visible political leadership for digital government, according to a hard-hitting report from the Institute for Government.
The institute has released a study on how digital government can be improved, calling for greater ministerial support for digital transformation.
It said that a new minister for digital government should be appointed to inject new life into the digital transformation agenda and overcome resistance among some civil servants.
The report said: “In Whitehall, the role of the Government Digital Service (GDS), which is tasked with leading the digital transformation of government, is contested, and its achievements questioned.
“The spread of new digital services for the public has been slower than planned. And departments resent interference and resist new ways of working.
“Much remains to be done if the manifesto commitments are to be met and the opportunities of the digital age seized.”
The report was compiled after interviews with 30 interviews with senior digital and policy officials across Whitehall and the public sector, and vendors to government.
It uncovered frustration with the government’s Digital Marketplace, which lacks features such as one-click purchasing.
“One vendor told us that when it started, the Digital Marketplace felt like a catalogue of assured products; as it has grown, it has lost this element of quality assurance,” according to the authors.
The IFG recommended that GDS standards need to be applied consistently in tenders.
It added that user needs could be met better through a more proactive helpdesk “that both monitors and supports the quality of tenders for inexperienced users, and one-click ordering and payment for experienced users”.
IFG also said there should be no complacency about the extent to which IT transformation has led to culture change within government.
It said that it had “found that while there are now digital teams in every government department, many senior civil servants still confuse IT and digital, and departments have only started to adapt to new ways of working.
“Many services and the datasets that support them operate in glorious isolation, running old software on old IT, with bespoke data exchanges. In the wider public sector, progress is even more patchy.”