Francis Maude pushes for UK government to "go digital"

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has re-emphasised the “digital by default” agenda.

“If it can be done online, it should be done online, and only online – digital by default,” he told delegates at the Reform Conference, The Private Sector and Public Services, on Wednesday.

“Digital transactions cost a fraction of post, telephony and face-to-face. As well as being cheaper, services delivered online are faster, simpler and more convenient for the public to use,” he added.

According to the Cabinet Office Minister, the government isn’t just recreating the same services for the Internet – instead, it is rethinking how services are structured and making sure the user comes first.

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Maude claims structuring services around user needs than expecting the customer to bend the needs of the provider is the way successful companies operate and bringing this approach to Whitehall will lead to better and cheaper services.

Besides repeating the government’s digital by default policies, the Minister spoke about the importance of open data, transparency and innovation.

Maude claims that openness builds trust, sharpens accountability, informs choice over public services and brings improvements.

During his speech, he said that clarity surrounding spending gives taxpayers the ability to see exactly how their money is put to use in real time and to judge how services perform.

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“Open data is also a raw material for innovation and growth. As the industrial revolution was built on steel, so the digital revolution is built on data,” claimed Maude.

“That’s why we’ve published more than 14,000 data sets on data.gov.uk, making it the largest open data portal in the world,” he added.

The Cabinet Office Minister believes that an innovative culture is essential to government in order for public servants to feel they have permission to try sensible – previously, he claimed, risk aversion has tended to hold back progress.

“Move fast and break things is the Facebook mantra. ‘Fail fast’ echoes around places like Silicon Valley. We don’t need to break everything, but the best organisations learn most from the things that don’t work,” claimed Maude.

“The culture of the civil service must change to not only tolerate, but require risk taking,” he added.

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