Many governments are busy digitising their existing institutions and services. Too often, they’re digitising an analogue government, locking in the waste, delay and frustration inherited from the era of filling in paper forms. Bad mistake. A nation bold enough to invest in new, natively digital foundations can transform the simplicity and cost of public services and unlock innovation far beyond the public sector. Based on experiences in the UK and around the world, Tom will explain how.
First things to get out of the way…
“We have it in our power to being the world over again.”- Thomas Paine
But the key question is… who is the “we”? The digital revolution is being done by the people in this room. If we’re going to be inventing things, let’s do things that matter!
In 2010, the UK Goverment opened the door to people from the internet. Francis Maude used a great deal of personal capital to get digital people into the civil service – this gets digital people into the heart of the government.
These people did not join to fix government websites – they joined to fix government. Because government needs fixing! There has been a growing gap between the expectation people have of web services, to the quality of services they are receiving from government.
So what was broken? Even when they weren’t dreadful, government services never got any better. Much of this can be tracked back to the grindingly slow methodology of going from policy, through procurement and finally inflicting on users… and then the stasis of operation.
So what did GDS get right?
They were trying to deal with the “square of despair” – policy, procurement, security myths, just making everything terribly unhappy.
So what did they get wrong? You know in hindsight… they had a huge opportunity and they weren’t bold enough. They were digitising a paper-based government. They’d put lipstick on pigs. They’d taken bad processes and made them prettier, a bit easier to use. But each service was an iron-clad silo.
The siloed services each separately collected and stored data. They essentially ignored the existend of all the other silos. Users were left bouncing around getting different things from different silos; and giving up their details each time.
New public infrastructure requires new public institutions.
So Tom made a small team and asked them “What if we started again?” …with everything except democracy itself. They did a great job and came up with many fantastic ideas, like APIs onto open, canonical government data.
Nice idea: minimum viable data. Eg/ You don’t need to know how old someone is, you just need to know if they are over 18.
(Live demo of starting and updating a business through a unified service based on open data, using blockchain to guarantee integrity.)
Whether this model is absolutely right is not certain, but it is certainly better than what we have now.
Some government is going to get this right first. It could be Australia. We do have a PM who wants his party using Slack.
Have no poverty of ambition. Do stuff that matters and invent a future that matters!