Francis Maude, one of the pioneers of the government’s move to “digital by default” and creator of the Government Digital Service, spoke at the EntrepreneurCountry Global Forum to discuss the government’s digital by default policy.
Maude said that “using digital technology more effectively will help us meet rising public expectations against a backdrop of continued public spending restraint.”
Maude asserted that digital services provide a cost effective alternative to traditional services, as digital can be 20 times cheaper than over the phone, 30 times cheaper than by post and 50 times cheaper than face-to-face.
But the improvements delivered by digital services are not just solely in cost, as they “create better services, more responsive to people’s needs and more convenient to use.”
“So we want government to be digital by default. Our aim is to design services which 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.”
Maude explained that the first priority of the government’s digital policy was to replace “over 300 inconsistent and expensive websites” with one central gov.uk domain, which has already received over 1 billion hits.
The current step of the process is to digitise the public services with the highest volume to streamline services to consumers with 1 million people using the new Individual Electoral Registration service within the first two months and to date almost 3 million have registered to vote using the service.
As part of the digital transformation, Maude stressed that security is key: “we need to be confident that people are who they say they are. And the public need to know their information is safe.
“It’s about trust – this is the crucial factor which underpins the success of digital transactions.”
He outlined three key points:
- Privacy and control over identity and personal data is essential.
- Technology moves too quickly to create one single solution to identity assurance.
- Ensure that services remain easy to use.
“The best digital services put the needs and requirements of the people that use them first. It shouldn’t be any different for identity assurance.
“It’s about finding the right balance between usability and security. If we can find a happy medium, then we can strengthen trust, without diluting the qualities of speed, convenience and choice that make digital services so appealing in the first place.”