The first meeting of the newly formed Open Standards Board took place on Thursday last week (9 May). Liam Maxwell, the Government’s Chief Technology Officer, chaired the meeting writes Linda Humphries.
I am enormously grateful to all of the members for volunteering their time and their expertise for the public good. Over time, their efforts will have a massive impact on people’s lives, making our services better and potentially saving millions of pounds in public money.
It was great to finally get down to work on putting the structures in place to help us make the right choice of which open standards to use.
The Open Standards Board agreed the process for how we should select open standards and appointed Nicholas Oughtibridge from the Health and Social Care Information Centre to chair a Data Standards Panel to advise the Board.
Last Friday Rebecca Kemp, Joshua Marshall and I visited the opening of the ‘Design that Makes a Difference’ exhibition at the Royal College of Art. Josh is our accessibility lead and Rebecca leads the Assisted Digital programme. Organised as a collaboration between the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and the Norwegian government, the exhibition is about “inclusive design” and “showcases 20 leading projects from the UK and Norway that demonstrate the benefits of people-centred design thinking”.
The first thing you see when you walk into GDS is the 7 main messages which guided the build of the GOV.UK alpha. Visitors to GDS often scribble them down, and like our Design Principles they help provide a shared language for people inside and outside government.
They’re also really useful points to keep in mind as we build a community around the exemplar services and the new service manual.
The Government Digital Service started out as a small group of people with experience building and running large online services. Since then we’ve grown the team, added lots of smart people, and talked to even more experts from other organisations. The Government Service Design Manual is an attempt to bottle that collective wisdom, with the aim of improving public services and making sure they meet the Digital by Default Service Standard.
So how did we write and review more than 286 (at the time of writing) items of guidance?
Today we launched the Government Service Design Manual. It sets out the agreed Digital by Default Service Standard, and provides tools, guidance and code to help teams across government achieve it.
It meets one of our 14 commitments in the Government Digital Strategy. And it demonstrates the future of collaboration and governance in government digital and technology: browser-based, iterative, owned by many, and with a strong bias towards action.
In the Open Standards Principles we said that we’d set up an Open Standards Board to help us to decide which open standards to use in government IT.
Now that we’ve published the first 8 challenges on the Standards Hub, it’s time to set up the Board and start making those decisions.
“The start of a process that will transform how we provide services…to make them…fit for the 21st Century – agile, flexible and digital by default”. That was how Francis Maude described the Government Digital Strategy, published in November 2012.
You may have read in earlier posts that the strategy set out 14 actions for departments to respond to. It was followed up in December 2012 by departmental digital strategies, where each department set out their own detailed plans and commitments on how they would transform and improve their services to meet user needs better and achieve savings.
An ambitious agenda. So how do we keep track of what is happening?
One of the most important objectives for the Digital by Default Service Standard project was setting out a consistent way of measuring service performance. Why? Because all too often, there has been no shared understanding of how concepts like ‘customer satisfaction’ or even ‘cost per transaction’ are measured in government – which makes data-driven decision making difficult.
We wanted to create a set of measures that would help service managers to monitor and improve the performance of government services over time. Specifically, service managers need to be able to measure progress in three areas: improving the user’s experience of the service, reducing running costs, and shifting people towards using the digital channel.
Today the National Audit Office (NAO) published their Digital Britain Two report, examining the government’s digital by default strategy. In particular, the report took a close look at the strategy document we published last November, and assessed whether the evidence stacked up for taking the direction we’ve chosen.
The NAO’s views on what we’ve done are important, because they are both independent of government and responsible for checking that it spends public money wisely. Their reports are often very influential. In 2011 they published the Digital Britain One report (PDF, 556kB), which recommended five lessons that informed the newly created Government Digital Service (GDS).
Getting a new message out
This week the IT Reform team within GDS released new guidance to government departments and suppliers around the technology we use. We’ve done this to make sure our technology doesn’t end up becoming inflexible, overdesigned, or adversely burdened with unnecessary management or security controls. Read more