Whitehall’s youngest department puts digital at the heart of its plan
The government’s joint-youngest department has lifted the lid on how, in its 17-month lifetime, it has begun to make good on its “huge ambitions for digital transformation” – with more planned for 2018.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) was born on 14 July 2016, as part of a wider reshuffle that took place following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and Theresa May’s subsequent appointment as prime minister. It took some responsibilities from the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, others from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and newly appointed minister for international trade Liam Fox also assumed oversight of an existing Whitehall department: UK Export Finance.
A year ago, the department launched its flagship website, great.gov.uk, which is intended to provide a hub for all the government’s information and services related to trade and investment. The site has already built and implemented a number of online services, including tools that allow UK firms to find export opportunities, individual buyers, or overseas suppliers of goods and services. There is also a service that directly connects UK companies or individuals to 41 online marketplaces through which they can sell their wares in various worldwide locations.
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In building its digital services, DIT has leaned on heavily on the Government as a Platform (GaaP) tools developed by the Government Digital Service.
“GaaP’s common components are helping DIT with over 20 transformation projects,” said Michelle Thorp, the department’s managing director of digital, technology, and estates. “These projects aim to make exporting and importing as frictionless as possible for users.”
The GaaP tools already in use by DIT included the Notify messaging tool, which it has used to provide information to users of its Overseas Market Introduction Service. GDS’s Platform as a Service offering, meanwhile, hosts the great.gov.uk site, while DIT is also shortly planning to implement GOV.UK Pay to process user payments.
Thorp said: “Looking ahead into 2018, we’re investigating opening up our customer relationship management tool to other users across government for free.”
She added: “We work in an agile way, meaning that we’re committed to evaluating user feedback, which we use to iterate our various digital products. As we continue our digital transformation, we know we can rely on a continually iterated, robust, and intuitive suite of GaaP components, tools and guidance.”