government work

Kevin Cunnington, Director General of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) provides an update on how digital transformation is helping to make government work better for everyone

The Government Digital Service (GDS) exists to make government work better for everyone. As part of Cabinet Office, we’re well-placed to support departments as they transform their services. We set a high standard for ourselves through our past work. Since 2012, we’ve achieved £1.2 billion savings through spending controls and we’ve saved £100 million through merging 1,884 government websites into the award-winning GOV.UK.

The Digital Marketplace is transforming the way government buys technology and digital services by opening the market up to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) suppliers. To date, in excess of £4 billion has been spent through the Digital Marketplace in just under six years, with close to half (45.1%) of that spend going to SMEs.

We’ve been focusing on how to make GDS a great place to work and reflect the society we serve. To achieve this, we have mandatory black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation on interview panels and a gender-balanced senior management team. We created the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Framework to help us identify gaps in talent across the Civil Service and to build the capability we need to deliver ambitious transformation.

To complement this work, we launched the GDS Academy which teaches civil servants the digital skills they need to transform public services. By the end of this year, we expect that 10,000 people will have attended GDS Academy courses. More widely, the Civil Service also offers graduate schemes, internships and apprenticeships, including a new software developer apprenticeship, to grow talent in-house.

Our work at GDS is guided by three themes: transformation, collaboration and innovation. Transformation allows an organisation to redesign its ways of providing a service; collaboration creates an environment where working together is the norm, and innovation means that we can really make a difference in people’s lives.

The result of these is an empowered, connected and digital workforce who can deliver to the standards expected in this digital age.


We help departments to transform by sharing our expertise, standards and ways of working and our exit from the European Union (EU) has accelerated the need for transformation. To support transformation we’ve offered advice, seconded staff, set up an EU Exit board and more.

We published, together with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the 7 Lenses of Transformation. This guide shares first-hand experiences of those who have led transformation projects in government. The Transformation Peer Group, a cross-government network, meets regularly to support business transformations across government.

With about 30% of the most critical EU Exit issues having a significant DDaT element, delivering on the EU Exit is a GDS priority. GDS experts have been seconded to assist those departments most affected by the EExit. The GDS Academy has prioritised courses for departments impacted by the EU Exit and we set up an EU Exit board to support GDS’ work across government.

We also held a consultation and responded to the incoming accessibility guidance from the EU which requires UK public sector body websites and apps to make their websites and apps more accessible. This can be found on GOV.UK.


GDS’ flagship conference, Sprint 18, made a triumphant return this year championing transformation, collaboration and innovation across the government. The thing that it really emphasised was just how much is gained when the government works together.

Attendees heard how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has transformed online applications for emergency travel documents. We also heard from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency on using GDS’ step-bystep navigation approach.

The UK Hydrographic Office talked about the automatic detection of previously unknown shipping hazards with machine learning. This technology was developed with help from GDS and the Data Science Accelerator Programme.

The pace of change at GDS has really increased in the past few years. GOV.UK Notify is now used by over 300 services and organisations and GovWifi has had over 10 million transactions.


The government needs to be able to solve complex challenges and understand which technologies can help them. The government launched the GovTech Catalyst so that technology companies could easily pitch to solve public sector challenges.

The £20 million three-year programme is live and has been hugely oversubscribed. Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, champions this work. To find out more, visit the GovTech page on GOV.UK.

Finally, innovation is a major area of work for us. We published the Technology innovation in government survey with a map of all innovation activity across government. For the first time, we now have visibility over all innovative work across government, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biometrics and distributed ledgers.

GDS is now leading on the Innovation Strategy, which will be published in Spring 2019. We are meeting academics, businesses and leading innovators, both at home and abroad, to develop our strategy. It will set forth our vision on how government can use emerging technologies to deliver exemplary services.

GDS is committed to showing what good looks like and solving the hardest problems. We are undertaking a huge piece of work to document the taxonomy of GOV.UK. This makes the website easy to read by technologies such as Alexa and Siri, and will allow us to future-proof GOV.UK.

It has already been a busy year for GDS. I am proud to represent GDS and talk about the work the team is doing to help the government make real change. The work we are doing now makes me certain that we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.


© Crown copyright

Kevin Cunnington

Director General

Government Digital Service (GDS)


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