SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)
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Socitm outlines key role for Local Digital Coalition in extending GDS ‘government as a platform’ to local public services

A new briefing from Socitm, The Local Digital Coalition: a key step to the future delivery of joined up and digital local public services, sets out how services like GOV.UK Verify, Notify and Pay could be extended to local public services.

The Coalition, established to inherit assets and resources from DCLG’s Local Digital Programme and made up of Socitm, the Local CIO Council, SOLACE, LocalGov Digital, iNetwork, iStand and other local public sector organisations, is well placed to help unlock of the benefits of other digital service assets, including those that are embedded in the ‘government as a platform’ services being developed by GDS.

The briefing sets out the potential of three of these services - GOV.UK Verify, GOV.UK Notify and GOV.UK Pay – to become common/standardised components that could be shared across the UK’s public services infrastructure. However, because these services are currently being developed exclusively to meet central government needs, additional work is needed to make them suitable for application across the wider sphere of public services – a good proportion of which is represented by the Local Digital Coalition.

The briefing describes features of the three services and their progress in turn:

GOV.UK Verify, which as the name suggests, verifies the credentials of users of online public services, is the most advanced of the three. It has been through piloting and is in limited use, with around a million authentications for central government services having taken place between October 2014 and February 2016.

GOV.UK Notify, a means by which public service providers can inform their service users about changes to their service eligibility and the current status of any outstanding service requests, moved to beta phase in January 2016 with a handful of applications currently being implemented.

GOV.UK Pay is also in beta with partner departments. The service will improve departments’ ability to take payments by increasing options (including credit and debit cards), reducing the need for manual payment processing, and by making it easier to reconcile payments and issue refunds.

The briefing goes on to argue that, before these new ‘platform services’ can be deployed outside central government, to enable convenient, user-friendly transactions that reduce the cost of local public services, there are key questions to resolve, in particular about who pays.

For example, government departments currently do not have to pay for GOV.UK Notify usage that falls within a pre-determined allowance, since this avoids the bureaucratic costs of cross-charging and also encourages take up.

Local government and third sector organisations need to be clear about whether they would get a GDS-subsidised usage allowance too, were they to take up the platform services. There are other issues too:

  • Children and the elderly, who between them make up a large proportion of public service users, may find it difficult to gain authentication under the current GOV.UK Verify arrangements
  • If NHS develops as an ID provider based on its index of NHS numbers, how might this provision sit alongside GOV.UK Verify as a means to access public services?
  • Local authority citizen account registers and Scotland’s mygov.scot account, are all potential entrants into the identity provider marketplace. How might these sit alongside commercial providers within the competitive identity marketplace created by the GOV.UK Verify programme?

The Local Digital Coalition, drawing its membership and representation from local public services across the UK is looking forward to taking up these questions directly with central government/GDS in the coming months.

‘From a central-local public service perspective, successful channel shift to online is crucial to achieving savings required by the austerity programme, as well as bringing the full spectrum of public services into the modern digital age’ says Martin Ferguson, Director of Policy & Research at Socitm.  ‘Reusability of well-designed, fit-for-purpose service platforms is critical to realising this vision on a big scale. Socitm anticipates that the Local Digital Coalition will play a key role in helping this vision become reality.’

The Local Digital Coalition: a key step to the future delivery of joined up and digital local public services is available free of charge to Socitm corporate members and Socitm Insight subscribers at:  https://khub.net/group/socitm-insight/library?p_p_id=20&_20_folderId=19807105

Further information:

Dr Andy Hopkirk, Head of Research at Socitm:  andy.hopkirk@socitm.net; 01604 709456

Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office vicky.sargent@socitm.net; 07726 601139

 

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