Government Digital Service (GDS)
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Delivering digital transformation through remote partnerships

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is a world leader in digital government and leads the UK’s digital transformation, which is built upon principles that reflect the role of digital in supporting an open society. The GDS International team has built partnerships across the globe with more than 30 countries who are keen to implement their own transformations.

GDS International is currently partnering with the governments of Rwanda and Colombia to support them to build their digital capability to deliver more efficient, transparent, secure and inclusive services for their citizens and, in the immediate term, help manage COVID-generated demands. This work is supported and funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), under their Partnership for Development programme.

Since the start of the global pandemic, digital has been the driving force for change in how we connect; colleagues in governments across the globe are working from home and building relationships through screens. As travel restrictions have remained in place, it’s changed how we approach our work in the Partnership for Development programme, moving from working in a country, to working entirely remotely.

Real change, remotely

Strong relationships are the foundation of our work with countries. To keep our relationships strong and the work moving forward, we’ve created regular, predictable ways of working together across different organisational cultures and timezones. It also means that we regularly reflect together on how we can improve the way we work.

Building and maintaining connections entirely online was not always easy. We’ve had to rethink and experiment with new techniques to find the best ways to help partners try out agile practices, such as user-story draftingprocess mapping and creating virtual kan-ban boards. We’ve tried and tested new on-line tools to visualise our work in progress and collaborate together finding virtual replacements for post-its and whiteboards on Padlet, and Trello. We have also had to find new opportunities to talk about and do things like user mapping and user interviews so that we can integrate user research into all our delivery plans - all of which we envisage continuing even when travel is allowed again.

In the new year, we’re looking to expand our peer-to-peer partnership model with more countries.

Other areas of our work vary, depending on where partner governments are on their journeys and what their priorities are, as their most important challenges can be different. How and what we share is influenced by areas where the UK has been an early adopter or leader in digital government, and where we have been able to consolidate our breadth of expertise and experience.

Our work with Rwanda

One of our partners is the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), which leads the government’s digital transformation agenda, implementing government projects that help digitise services and the civil service in Rwanda.

Over this last year, we've been working with RISA to explore how we can best work together on digital transformation remotely. 

RISA is working in partnership with GDS to further our department’s digital goals and capabilities. Based on the GDS experience and knowledge base, the partnership is contributing to the development of not only useful processes and tools, but also skills and culture change that promote our digital ambitions to deliver innovative services to citizens and organizations we support.

Antoine Sebera, Government Chief Innovation Officer, Rwanda

The value of our work is shown in the strength of the partnerships that we are building and in what we are helping countries to deliver. These relationships have survived, and thrived, in a tumultuous year because we have focused on experimenting and adapting the way we work. Both our partners and ourselves have embraced new tools and techniques to help us adapt to these new operational contexts quickly.

Despite the logistical and operational challenges our goals remain the same: focusing on behaviour and culture change, capacity-building and developing a government’s digital foundations, while increasing transparency and accessibility for citizens.  The UK’s experience as an early leader in digital government and the breadth of Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) expertise means there continues to be a lot to share.

In our next blog posts, we’ll talk more about our work in Colombia, and our support for GOV.CO and Rwanda on User-Centred Design as an essential part of delivery and how it impacts their work and helps governments make better digital services.

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