Innovation and changeGovernment TechnologyGovernment should be structured as a platform, new report argues

Government should be structured as a platform, new report argues

Platform-based structure allows government to focus on the needs of the individual rather than the legacy structures of government departments

The UK should become a global hub for ‘GovTech’, with digital technology offering the chance to transform the relationship between the state and the citizen, and create a more efficient, responsive and innovative state, according to a new report from the Policy Exchange.

Authored by Jonathan Dupont, a Research Fellow in Policy Exchange’s Economics & Social Policy Unit, and Director of Research & Policy at Public First, The Smart State – Redesigning government in the era of intelligent services, argues that, like today’s leading companies, Government should be structured as a platform and centred around the needs of the individual, rather than the legacy structures of government departments.

“Ever since the nineteenth century, our government has been run as a top down bureaucracy where Whitehall-knows-best,” the report says. “Digital technology offers the potential for a new kind of government in which the citizen is as an active and responsible user, directly in control of their public services, rather than a passive recipient of decisions mandated from the top. This in turn will allow us to create a more flexible, responsive and agile state.”

The report goes on to state how the technology exists to make this a reality today. However, future advances in AI, big data and machine learning look set to drastically magnify the opportunity. While many are worried about the potential impact of ‘robots’ taking jobs, or excited about the potential for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ to boost productivity in the private sector, not enough people are thinking seriously about the potential to improve and reshape government over the next 20 years.

 

Government as a platform

The Smart State adds that the public sector needs to learn from the private sector when developing a platform-based approach.

It says: “Across the private sector, the most successful companies are platforms. Rather than try and scale communication beyond a small team – and run into the inevitable bottlenecks of bureaucracy and internal politics – they restructure themselves from closed hierarchies into open, networked and digital platforms.

“Nowhere is the potential for a platform greater than within the Government itself, with digital technology offering the potential to finally fulfil the longstanding vision of Open Public Services. Operating Government as an open platform means it can more effectively share data and connect citizens in a secure way to a wider range of new innovative providers and services.”

 

Recommendations

The report, which can be read in full here, makes a number of recommendations about how government can be redesigning to take advantage of intelligent services, across policies, structures and operations. These include:

  • GDS should be given the medium-term goal of creating a single Digital Government Account, putting the user firmly in control of their data and digital services.
  • GDS should be moved from the Cabinet Office to DCMS, which would be given responsibility for leading on digital transformation of Government.
  • The Government Chief Data Officer should work with GDS to manage a single, open roadmap of progress in digitalising core transactions and launching open APIs, allowing devolved administrations and third parties to interact better with central government.
  • The Cabinet Office should create a new five-year innovation lab centred on AI and Machine Learning.
  • Policy should be created to establish common principles for data collection and use to cover consent, retention, aggregation, anonymisation, disclosure, review, commercial data acquisition and supply, subject access and recourse.

Further recommendations can be found in the full paper.

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