Whitehall culture biggest threat to Government as a Platform, says European Commission

The new UK administration's plans for 'Government as a Platform' are threatened by a lack of coordination and information sharing across Whitehall departments, the European Commission warned this week.

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Whitehall’s siloed, standalone systems and a lack of coordination across departments represent “the biggest challenge” to plans for ‘Government as a Platform’, according to a report for the European Commission produced by consultancy Cap Gemini.

Making this platform model a reality is the main task currently facing the Government Digital Service (GDS) post-election and has been backed by new Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock MP (pictured).

The government hopes common technology platforms and shared web-based infrastructure across departments will reduce duplication, save millions (if not billions) of pounds and improve services for citizens.

The commission agreed it could unleash “unprecedented innovation, efficiency, and savings”.

However in order to set up this new structure, different silos across government must share information between their back-office systems, the report said.

The UK has a high level of take-up of government digital services compared to other European nations, but public services have a low level of digitisation, the study found.

The main reason the UK has relatively few digital public services is “weaker coordination between institutions”, it said.

The UK needs to invest more money into digitising services, the report suggested. This would only lead to more cash savings in the public sector but it would also increase the quality of services to citizens.

Since May, GDS has started building prototype platforms that could be reused across government, for example for booking appointments or making payments.

It has also been working to improve collaboration across agencies, for example by encouraging civil servants to use shared technology.

The report ranked UK digital public services as the most mobile-friendly in Europe. The responsive single government website GOV.UK gets 45 percent of its traffic from mobiles, it explained, versus the EU average where just one in four government websites are suitable for mobiles.

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