GDS chief Stephen Foreshew-Cain on digital challenges in 2016

Written on 16 December 2015 in Features

We catch up with Government Digital Service executive director Stephen Foreshew-Cain about the issues facing his organisation in 2016.

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?

GDS has seen a lot of change this year as we moved into a new phase of digital transformation across government. In our shorthand, we talk about “going wholesale” – accelerating transformation by building a shared digital infrastructure of cross government platforms (or Government as a Platform) that everyone can use.

More than anything though this year was about people; not just in GDS, but across government. And that doesn’t change as we go forward. Transforming government to make it more efficient, more digitally capable and more focused on user needs can’t be done without the talented people we have across the civil service. 

We need to continue to build digital, technology and data capability in government if we’re to deliver true transformation. That’s why we’re investing in building a profession for digital and technology in government.

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?

It’s all about delivering Government as a Platform and accelerating digital transformation efforts wherever they are happening. We’ve got to carry on iterating and improving the platforms we already have, such as GOV.UK, GOV.UK Verify, and Digital Marketplace.

But going wholesale means more than that. We’re going to be building new platforms too; a joint effort right across government. We’ll be building the platforms that all of government needs: building them once, building them right, and opening them up to be re-used by everyone. You’ll be hearing about new platforms such as GOV.UK PAY andGOV.UK NOTIFY (with more to come). We’re also supporting the roll-out of new technology tools for civil servants. These shared platforms will free departments to focus on designing and operating world class public services – that are simpler, clearer, faster.

What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?

We have a fairly established routine in my house… It’s a Wonderful Life, the Doctor Who Christmas Special, followed by a game of charades before we all fall into a food-induced coma.  

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Martin Ferguson... (not verified)

Submitted on 13 January, 2016 - 14:04
Socitm and the Local CIO Council advocate a place-based approach to public services co-design with users and digital transformation - recognising the unique character of different places/localities and what they have in common. Our thinking revolves around three core principles for digital transformation: Simplify, Standardise and Share. This lends itself to the platform-based approach that Stephen is leading through GDS. We also see a shift of focus beyond transactions to relationships - conversations engaging users - advocated by speakers from Surrey CC at the Government ICT event yesterday. We see scope for dramatic re-design and digital transformation (and savings) in high spending areas like social care - adult care assessments, child adoption services, missing children, blue badge applications, etc. It follows that co-design and digital transformation of public services - requires a pan-government approach to addressing better outcomes for our citizens. To put it another way, local public services are a critical part of the ecology of government services that Stephen referred to in his address to the Government ICT conference. We would welcome the opportunity to work with colleagues in GDS to extend the platform-based approach into local public services, enabled by sharing standards, data, capacity and capability, to achieve better outcomes for our citizens at significantly reduced cost.

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