This week at GDS
Another busy week at GDS, including reaching the milestone of 100 million visits to GOV.UK. We also attended a lot of behind-the-scenes meetings to start planning and looking at the transformation of 23 exemplar services across seven departments.
What has GDS been up to this week?
Well, a lot of hard work, but a celebration as well. We passed 100 million visits since we launched GOV.UK, which is a tremendous achievement. Probably more notably, we had 6 million individual visitors in the last week of January/first week of February, and that’s a tremendous achievement; that’s substantially higher than we were getting for Directgov and Businesslink. So it’s a testament to how well it’s working. I should give a shout-out to Tara Stockford and Lana Gibson and the team for the SEO work they’ve done and all the content work they’ve done. So yes, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s nice to cross that milestone.
Who have we been working with this week?
It seems like everyone at the moment, Ali. We published the Government’s digital strategy late last year, and as you know, the departmental strategies we published just before Christmas. What’s happening now in government isn’t particularly newsworthy, but it’s a lot of behind-the-scenes meetings to start planning and looking at the transformation of 23 exemplars across seven departments, right across the Government’s estate. So there’s a whole host of work going on there, and I won’t give you the details of many of these workshops.
But we met with key departments: HMRC – met with Lin Homer at the start of the week, the Permanent Secretary; she’s right behind the transformation agenda there, so that’s tremendous; we’re getting a team spinning up there. We met with Treasury, and of course colleagues in Treasury, and making sure the Cabinet Office and Treasury are going through this hand-in-hand, and making sure that our financial processes are in place is absolutely crucial if we’re going to pull this off over the next 400 days. Also I met, earlier today, with DVLA and Department of Transport. So we’re meeting with the key departments and we’re really getting down to business.
Also this week, we welcomed representatives in the Technical Open Standards space from 12 other countries, and they’ve come to see what we’re doing in the UK. We should give a big shout-out to Linda Humphries and Liam Maxwell, who’ve done terrific work in this area, and it’s good to see that other countries are referencing what we’re doing, and also how far ahead we are in putting the open standards debate into play; into delivery of public services. So that was a big win this week.
So what is coming up next week?
We’re all very busy, continuing working with a lot of departments, helping them develop their digital strategies. Highlights for me: working with HMRC on the key exemplars; it’s going to be crucial to get that right. We have an event on Wednesday with NESTA and the Cabinet Office and the Omidyar Network, sponsoring an event called Tech for Good; I’m really looking forward to that. Stephen King, the guy who runs Omidyar in Europe, is a terrific force for good in our space, and he’s someone I respect a great deal. So it will be good to see them on Wednesday.
We’re working with colleagues in Treasury. We’re continuing to push the identity agenda as well, and Friday next week, we’re all going out for an afternoon, because we do a lot of show-and-tells, and I constantly talk about looking sideways in GDS and in digital in government, because we’ve got to work across a lot of different agendas. So on Friday we’re going out for a few hours, and we’re doing Ignite-style show-and-tells to everyone here, so everyone has a sense of where all the agendas are up to. So I’m really looking forward to that event as well.
Are there any new starters, or people who you’ve said goodbye to at GDS?
There are plenty of new people coming as we spin up some of our projects. There are probably a couple of people worth a mention this week. Matt Navarra’s coming back to join us, he’s currently at the IPO. It will be great to have him, not least because of his active social media presence. I’d like to personally say goodbye to Lindsey Bromwell, who’s been Private Secretary here and previously worked in Cabinet Office; she’s been absolutely central to the growth of GDS, but also helped me hugely, and grown the team here, and we’ll miss her. She’s going to Welsh Assembly, so no doubt she’ll be writing us letters in Welsh and we’ll have to reply to those. But thanks for all her work; she’s been a fantastic part of the team.
Has anything outside GDS caught your eye?
This is the bit where I normally mention something not to do with government. But actually this week, I’ve got to give praise to Liam again, and to Stephen Allott in government. Because we had a roadshow event, well outside of GDS, actually, in four cities in the UK. We saw 250 SMEs. It’s absolutely crucial that we get SMEs in this country into the Government’s digital and technological supply-chain, and these events are hugely important in getting the goodwill and the support of SMEs. In this country we are blessed with SMEs who are great at technology. Sitting where we are right now, we’re surrounded by digital creative agencies, London is awash with them, but many other cities have got a really active presence.
It’s a sign of some regret from me that we’ve not really encouraged many of these companies to work with us in the past. We’ve not made it easy enough, and these events, telling them how to get onto the G-Cloud; how to work with government, are crucial in growing that number of small companies who work with us. It was tremendously well-received, and we’re looking to do some more in the future. So that was the thing that struck me the most from outside GDS this week.