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Digital by Default Assessments

Next month a colleague and I will be observing a Digital by Default Assessment at the Government Digital Service (GDS). We were delighted to be invited and I'm very grateful to Olivia Neal and her colleagues for the chance to see how a stage of it works, in person.

The Digital by Default Standard applies to Central Government services that have (or are likely to have) more than 100,000 transactions a year and happens at various stages of a new service's creation. It's a good thing for lots of reasons, two of which being it makes sure services are relentlessly centred on user needs and it stops taxpayers money being wasted on pet projects and poor services. In short it's about better, cheaper government services.

My interest is twofold. Firstly to see if elements could be used at the council I work for, and also whether it could be applied generally to service Local Government offers, perhaps through LocalGov Digital, or something else.

We'll be watching a Beta to Live Service Assessment and I picked this because I think it's the most applicable to local government at this time. I'd argue there are very few councils doing Discovery and Alpha phases properly, whilst there are probably more doing Beta better.

So to questions I have for the day.

You might be surprised to know "Could this work for Local Government" isn't one of them. The answer to this in my view is a resounding "yes". What I'll be looking for is "How could this work for Local Government", or "Which elements could work for Local Government".

The fundamental difference between Central and Local Government is that whilst the former offers a small amount of high volume services, the latter generally offers a large amount of low volume services. 100,000 transactions would only apply to a tiny percentage of council services like paying council tax, so I'll be looking to see if it could or should be scaled for smaller volume services.

A second is, where is the user's voice in the process? From the outside it looks a bit like the government inspectors inspecting the government. GDS put user needs at the heart of everything they do, and I'm keen to see how this happens in practice, in the Assessment.

A third is, is there any interest from GDS in working with councils on this? I've seen differing messages over the past year from local GDS ‘very high priority’ to "In terms of mandate and what local can do, I’m afraid it’s not my job". The two quotees have now moved to new roles and the Spending Review will also bring changes so perhaps this might not become clearer until November.

There are other questions, but there's a role for you the reader in this too, because if you've read this far you probably have in interest in this. For the most part we're there to observe, and time for asking questions afterwards will be short, but if you have something you'd like to find out about the process please do let me know and I'll do my best to ask.

I hoping we might be able to run a workshop or maker day some time afterwards, I hope this won't be the end, but whatever happens I'm grateful to GDS for sparing some of their valuable time for my colleague and I.

UPDATE: I wrote a follow up, after my visit here.

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