Public Services > Central Government

Maude calls for digital culture change in 'every corner of Whitehall'

Charlotte Jee Published 21 January 2013

Cabinet Office to unveil digital service standard by April 2013


Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has called for the Civil Service to build "digital expertise into its DNA", embedding "digital skills and awareness at every level". He said, "Building a civil service that is digital by default will provide better innovative solutions that will deliver more for less".

Maude said that, as set out in the Government Digital Strategy published in November 2012, the Cabinet Office will publish a full service standard for all digital services by April 2013. The document will set out the performance metrics and capabilities that services must achieve, with no new or redesigned service permitted to go live until they meet the standards described.

Kicking off Sprint13, a conference aimed at showcasing the best of digital from across government, Maude thanked Martha Lane Fox, who has been the government's UK digital champion for four years, for "kicking us off along this route." He added, "She has held our feet to the fire, and rightly so".

He also pointed out that Fox was responsible for creating the post of digital director, currently held by Mike Bracken who, Maude said, "has done an outstanding job in bringing transformation to digital services."

Maude said that government must emulate successful businesses such as British Airways, which have moved to a situation "where everything that can be online, is online." He added that the 'digital by default' agenda is "a massive challenge but a massive opportunity", given the fact that 82% of UK adults are online. "This is a figure that can only increase, " he said.

He said, "Users expect to be able to access services in a way most convenient to them, and for most government services that is possible." He added, "We will build digital services so good that people will choose to use them", and said that by 2015, all government services handling over 100,000 transactions a year will be digital by default.

The significance of this aim, according to Maude, is that "the cost of digital services can be almost twenty times lower than phone or face-to-face." In particular, he said, "We estimate that by moving government services online we can save £1.2bn per year."

Maude explained that "far too often government services are designed around our needs rather than those of the consumer" but said that this had changed: "services, quite rightly, are being redesigned around the needs of the user."

Maude pointed to the launch of GOV.UK , saying that it had led the way by being better and cheaper than its predecessors, and launching on time.

However, Maude was keen to assure the audience that "no one will be left behind by the digital by default agenda", as there will be assisted digital schemes, and those who wish to access government services offline will still be able to do so.

Maude said that the government is changing the way it procures IT. Traditionally, he said, the big systems integrators have provided "a raw deal for everybody" by increasing prices at a time when most private sector companies are decreasing them. He added, "We are changing the way we procure by using smaller, innovative, flexible suppliers."

Maude said that the G-Cloud programme is an exemplar of this shift, as 70% of its spend so far has been with SMEs, the contracts on the framework are shorter, and it provides an off-the-shelf, pay-as-you-go marketplace for government IT services.

However, Maude warned that "success hinges on bringing a culture change to every corner of Whitehall". He called on departmental digital leaders to be "bold and challenging" to ensure that the civil service continues to build the "21st century services that this country deserves."

Maude pointed to the government's global ambitions in the digital area, saying, "Government IT used to be about big, costly, spectacular failures. Now we're hoping to set a worldwide standard for digital delivery that others will want to adhere to."

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