Public Services > Central Government

GDS sets out vendor prospects from its transformation strategy plans

David Bicknell Published 26 July 2017

Kevin Cunnington and GDS colleagues discuss ‘Government as a Platform’ developments with prospective vendors in techUK briefing


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has outlined its plans for public sector transformation with tech suppliers.

But some suppliers present wonder whether GDS director general Kevin Cunnington and his team had offered them enough commercial nuggets in their plans.

At the event, held in partnership with techUK, Cunnington outlined the opportunities for the tech sector throughout the delivery of the Government Transformation Strategy between 2017-2020, details of which were released earlier this year.

Attendees were given demos on what’s new in the Government as a Platform (GaaP) programme, and how GaaP fits into the bigger picture of the transformation strategy. A key focus of the sessions was to enable public sector tech suppliers to engage with the GaaP product teams and explore how suppliers can get involved in future work.

Attendees to the event heard that the Civil Service is around 2,500-4,000 digitally skilled employees’ short to be able to maintain current commitments, and with more digital commitments promised in the future, that shortfall in digital competence could increase.

Vendors also learned that GDS is hoping to have ubiquitous Wi-Fi and printing across the Civil Service and there was an acknowledgement that the government has previously underinvested in data. In short, Cunnington said, GDS wants to deliver a digital system that a citizen uses all the way through their life (e.g. from student loans, to driving licences, passports, paying tax, and pensions).

Cunnington also discussed the challenge of mapping large operational databases between large departments. For example, there might be up-to-date information about ‘Kevin Cunnington’ on a health department database, but on another system he might appear as a graduate student. The challenge for GDS is how to map across large databases to make sure these are the same person.

It also emerged from the meeting that new digital minister Caroline Nokes is concerned about the citizen experience of digital systems, particularly for those who are not digitally skilled. Meanwhile, on procurement, vendors were told that the procurement process will not change radically over the lifetime over the Transformation Strategy, but how government organisations choose how they procure may change.

After the event Cunnington said, “Business transformation is difficult and government cannot do this alone. Service teams in government want, and need, the UK tech industry’s skills and experience to help them transform. By using the GDS platforms rather than re-inventing them or integrating others you can do this more quickly, cheaply and consistently.”

techUK chief executive Julian David said, “The detailed plans outlined today show how government will adopt new transformational approaches, and illustrates its willingness to harness a competitive supplier landscape in doing so. It was encouraging to hear that government is focused on skills, information sharing, end-to-end transformation and harnessing SME innovation as this aligns with our members’ key priorities for public services.”

“What is clear from today’s event is that the UK government is ambitious to be world-leading in the next wave of digital government transformation and embrace the full diversity and strengths of UK tech suppliers. We look forward to working with GDS to help it achieve its 2020 targets and deliver tech-enabled public services to drive innovation.”

But at least one vendor present said he was rather underwhelmed. Another was more positive, suggesting that while there was nothing new in the briefing, it was important to have had the event and hear from Cunnington and some of his senior team, especially in the GaaP workshops. Others are said to ‘get’ the need for Verify, Pay, and Notify but have some reservations in terms of trying to understand what GDS is trying to accomplish with Platform as a Service.

techUk is understood to value the GDS relationship and to be able to offer GDS engagement with its vendor members. Although it would welcome further engagement, it recognises that GDS is now more willing to lay out its plans with vendors than in its earlier days.



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