“GaaP could save councils up to £500m annually”, GDS estimates
GDS’ ability to develop solutions that can be shared with councils should not be underestimated, however Whitehall must listen more to local government expertise, argues Eduserv’s Jos Creese
The Government Digital Service (GDS) has released a document that claims local authorities could save up to £500m annually by using Government as a Platform (GaaP) services such as GOV.UK Verify and GOV.UK Notify. I have two views on this.
The first is supportive of GDS – there is no question that this is long overdue and a real opportunity to use digital means to save money and to improve services. The GDS vision and their ability to develop widely shareable solutions should not be underestimated.
Blue Badge systems in particular have desperately needed a unifying technology infrastructure, including GOV.UK Verify for a decade or more. It will certainly save money, and although I can’t comment on the statistics quoted by GDS (you can make any numbers work with statistics!), they don’t sound unbelievable – conservative even.
My second reaction is, however, irritation.
There are a range of common components that have been promised nationally and desperately needed by local government for many years – especially around identity management and common approaches to care services for example.
Yet these are still not fully delivered. Central government needs to listen much harder to those of us that have worked for many years in the local public services sector. Local government remains some years ahead of central government in terms of IT efficiency, digital application and examples of innovative use of technology for shared and redesigned services.
Also, GaaP as a concept is now old, yet still rolls off the tongue too easily as the solution, even though the concept does not apply well in the complex nature of local public services (or at least not in the way GDS describes it for Whitehall). We have to start defining an architecture for integrated local public services in a meaningful and practical way, and in the context of emerging technologies, not existing ones.
It is true, as GDS says, that ‘digital’ can make services ‘more convenient, faster and responsive’. This really is not news.
We need to talk more about accessibility, privacy and trust - the key elements that sunk the Care.Data programme.
Jos Creese is Principal Analyst of Eduserv’s Local Government Executive Briefing Programme, a not-for-profit initiative aimed to increase sector-wide understanding of the role of digital in ensuring the future of public services. Jos has over 25 years’ experience in the public sector, most recently as CIO and CDO of Hampshire County Council.