Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude recently spoke in Dubai where he said that digital technology is an absolutely crucial part of reforming government services.
According to him, “In the UK, public sector reform has been an immediate response to the urgent need to reduce the national deficit. But there is a greater prize at stake – the opportunity to create 21st century services: cost-effective and sustainable for the future, but also faster and more responsive to people’s needs.”
“Of course no 2 countries have exactly the same experience. But around the world governments are facing similar challenges: squeezed budgets, rising expectations, low growth. So we need a new paradigm for government services. One that delivers better services focused on user need, at much lower cost, in a way that supports economic growth,” he added.
Maude believes that countries like Estonia and South Korea are leading the way in digital. He also said that using transparency and open data to bring about continuous improvement can help governments to address rising public demands and the challenges of austerity.
This won’t always be comfortable, he added, saying that in fact transparency can be extremely uncomfortable – open data exposes waste and taxpayers are able to see exactly how their money is spent.
But he believes this sharpens accountability and informs choice over public services. And combined with ever increasing technological capability, it will ultimately create more accountable, efficient and effective governments.Open data is also a raw material for economic growth, according to Maude, supporting the creation of new markets, businesses and jobs. If a service can be delivered online, then it should be delivered only online is the motto.This is the approach which is guiding the transformation of 25 of the largest transactional government services
in the UK so they are simpler, clearer, faster and – most importantly – designed around the needs of the user, he explained, elaborating that “by digital by default, we mean creating digital services that are so straightforward that all those who can use them will choose to do so, and those who can’t are given the support they need.”
He also shed light on putting the customer first: “In the past, governments seldom – if ever – consulted people about the services they were using. It was a “Big Bang” approach which sent money and expectations hurtling down a black hole.
The first the public would see of a service was when it went live, by which time it would be too late to make any changes if it didn’t work. But that’s completely the wrong way.
Only when you find out what people want, how they want it delivered and how they intend to use it do you even begin to think about designing the service or building the technology.”
“But this is a race with no finishing line – we will never be able to say “mission accomplished” or “job done”. The work of making government more efficient never ends. Because organisations are either getting better or getting worse. There is no in between, no steady state. If you think you’re staying the same, you are getting worse,” he concluded.