Civic Agenda Briefing Innovation in Digital Delivery
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Introduction Putting innovation at the centre of strategies for digital delivery lies at the heart of the Government’s policy agenda for greater efficiency, transparency and accessibility of public services, detailed in both the Government’s ICT Strategy and Open Services White Paper published this year. In order to develop Digital by Default services which are effective for users, meet aims for economic savings, and are up to date with technological developments, the Government intends to open its services and data to the public and to champion user-‐sourced innovation in design and delivery. In a recent speech Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, explains that:
“For too long, Government has wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicate IT systems. We need to ensure that frontline services have the tools to do their job to deliver effective public services. We’re determined to find more innovative ways to deliver services, bringing in competition between different kinds of provider to deliver value and innovation.” Fostering Innovation The Government has set out that by shifting from long-‐term, large-‐scale digital delivery projects to producing and promoting private innovation in smaller, user-‐centric solutions, both it and the public can benefit from more effective, accessible, transparent and cost-‐effective Digital by Default services. The Open Public Services report details the Government’s new strategy for achieving this goal: It plans to open its data, services, and applications to external providers, including the private and not-‐for-‐profit sectors, in order to crowdsource public innovation1. The report sets out the plan for a “digital marketplace” for innovative and custom made delivery solutions as well as other Government data and services through the Government Digital Service (GDS)2, created by the merger of Directgov with the Cabinet Office Digital Delivery and Digital Engagement teams, following the recommendations of Martha Lane Fox’s Directgov 2010 and Beyond: Revolution not Evolution3. The GDS aims to review and quality-‐mark independent innovations in service delivery in order to ensure public confidence and a consistent high standard, whilst also including user feedback and ratings on its content to ensure services are effective and relevant for users. In addition, the Cabinet Office has launched the DotGovLabs website as an ‘innovation hub’4, providing a forum for the public to submit suggestions for solutions to particular challenges, including in the past ‘Reducing digital exclusion’, ‘Improving healthcare, reducing costs’ and ‘Supporting carers’5, thereby expanding the idea-‐ and knowledge-‐base available to Government and independent service developers. 1
Open Public Services white paper, July 2011, p. 53. http://www.openpublicservices.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ Ibid., pp. 52-‐3. 3 Martha Lane Fox, Directgov 2010 and Beyond: Revolution not Evolution, October 2010. 4 https://dotgovlabs.direct.gov.uk/Page/Home 5 https://dotgovlabs.direct.gov.uk/Page/Challenges 2
Digital service challenges The Government has identified in its ICT Strategy6 report that previous and existing projects: • “tend to be too big, leading to greater complexity”; and • “procurement timescales are far too long and costly, squeezing out all but the biggest, usually multinational, suppliers”. Large scale procurement and long term contracts are impractical in the digital field, where the pace of technological change is extremely rapid, and inhibit the ability of public sector service to keep pace with technological developments. Existing Government online services can be lengthy and complicated to complete, and often do not exploit the full potential of digital delivery. The example cited by Martha Lane Fox is that of an online student loan application on the DirectGov website requiring, after the completion of the online forms, the printing and signing of a 30 page document7. Technological opportunities Innovative use of new technology presents opportunities for overcoming challenges to Digital by Default, and for meeting the Government’s aim of delivering services “wherever you are”8, both digitally and physically. For example, smartphones and tablet PCs can help improve access to the internet because they rely on satellite data connections rather than underground cabling which is expensive and uneconomical to lay to remote rural communities. The number of smartphone users has grown by 70% between January 2009 and January 2010 to over 11 million9, and IDC predicts that global annual downloads of applications, or ‘apps’, for these devices will increase from 38.2 billion in 2010 to 182.7 billion by 201510, indicating an increasing demand for portable, customisable, digital services.
Case study: NHS Direct app The NHS has exploited smartphone technology with an app which consolidates 38 existing NHS online symptom checkers and allows users to check their symptoms wherever they are and receive basic medical information. The service integrates with mobile technology and offers a function to telephone a health professional if symptoms persist. Although NHS Chief Technical Officer Paul Jones has stated that the NHS will not be Digital by Default and users will not be ‘compelled’ to use digital services, innovative forms of digital service delivery can supplement and even improve existing services without any additional cost, in this case by ensuring professional attention is focussed on the most pressing medical issues. This briefing has been produced by Civic Agenda for the Digital Leaders Programme. For further information please visit www.civicagenda.co.uk or call 0207 387 0422
Cabinet Office, Government ICT Strategy, March 2011, p. 4. Martha Lane Fox, Directgov 2010 and Beyond: Revolution not Evolution, October 2010, p. 3. 8 Open Public Services white paper, July 2011, p. 52. 9 ComScore, March 2010. 10 IDC, Worldwide and U.S. Mobile Applications, Storefronts, Developer, and In-‐App Advertising 2011–2015 Forecast: Emergence of Postdownload Business Models, June 2011. 7