The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report into Digital Government is an interesting read (for a very specific definition of interesting!). I agree with a lot of it.

More does need to be done to really get a handle on legacy technologies across the Government estate.

Hiring and retaining people with the right skills is challenging and new approaches are needed.

Not enough has been done to really grasp the opportunity around data and the possibilities around an intelligent method of data sharing between Departments. The neglect of Registers after a promising start still stings.

Clarity around the role of GDS has definitely faded over the years – and some of this can be assigned to a perceived failure of leadership (whether at Ministerial or civil service level).

There is definitely still room for improvement around procurement (but also GCloud and DOS really are a success story as well and should be celebrated as such.).

I’m less convinced by the rush to unique identifiers for citizens again. I’m not convinced it is needed for a start let alone whether the capability exists to do it in an appropriate manner.

Also much as I admire Estonia and their approach I’m a little tired of it being pointed to as an exemplar without sufficient acknowledgment of the context they faced.

As for AI – there are opportunities for sure and it needs to be taken seriously but it is no silver bullet and I’ll reserve comment on some of the desire for ‘innovative technologies’ – that is one for the pub.

There is no doubt momentum has been lost…but….some of that is because there was just soooooo much initially. As for worrying about the United Nations e-Government survey? We shouldn’t have taken it seriously when we were 1 and we shouldn’t take it any more seriously now we aren’t.

Having just been to Canada and the US I think we should acknowledge how far we have come.

Every week there are vacancies across the public sector for roles like User Researcher, Product Manager, Service Designer, Interaction Designer, Infrastructure Engineer, Data Scientist….all getting the opportunity to work in agile teams at the heart of Government. Teams across the country are publishing code in the open and collaborating on tools like Slack. These people are civil servants. Who would have believed that only a few years ago.

Sure the diaspora from the first couple of generations of GDSers might have diluted the impact of the centre but it created bright spots across the network. The Ministry of Justice is consistently doing great things – especially around coping with that pesky legacy technology. If anyone, anywhere is doing a better job in Government of communicating complex statistics on the web than ONS then I haven’t seen it. At GDS Notify and PAY are outstanding products – providing real benefits to Departments and citizens and GOV.UK remains a remarkable feat.

The Digital Marketplace isn’t perfect but have you seen the alternatives! The challenge is to get people to use it better and more consistently – which will hopefully see off some of those other procurement ‘portals’.

I am really on board with trying to inject some momentum back into things and we definitely have a long way to go but that shouldn’t detract from acknowledging how far we have come.

It’s Notbinary.

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