digital transformation of government

Kevin Cunnington, Director General of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) provides a fascinating overview of how the organisation’s work is leading the digital transformation of government

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is part of the Cabinet Office and our job is to help government work better for everyone. We actively support every government department and agency in the UK, as well as organisations across the public sector, to help them deliver excellent digital services which meet user needs. Our work over the past six years has given the UK the reputation of the world’s leading digital government.

How GDS is leading the digital transformation of government

GDS leads the digital transformation of government in a number of ways. We develop, publish and monitor the Government Transformation Strategy, published at the start of 2017 which sets out how the government will use digital to transform the relationship between the citizen and state. We provide the tools, skills and techniques needed for that to happen.

People are the foundation of our work and without the right people, transformation can’t happen. We provide the skills to enable transformation, for example, through training at the GDS Academy.

A big area of focus for us is making sure that government is made up of digital professionals who can deliver world-class services which truly benefit the lives of the people it serves. Doing so will ready us for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

GDS has created components that solve common problems across central and local government and the public sector. We call this toolkit Government as a Platform (GaaP). It includes GOV.UK Notify and GOV.UK Pay.

GovWifi allows staff and visitors in government organisations to connect to a secure wifi service whilst they move between government buildings. In November it exceeded two million transactions.

In terms of techniques, a number of major transformation projects are being delivered across government. We ensure that teams are able to deliver these using agile methodologies

The role Agile plays in GDS’s work

The government needs to be able to respond quickly to change. Agile and GDS have gone hand-in-hand from the start. Agile methods encourage teams to build quickly, test what they’ve built and iterate their work based on regular feedback.

Agile also supports our work on openness and transparency. If you visit the GDS office, you’ll see that most of our wall space is taken up with Agile walls. These give an open view of our work: everyone in the office can see what other teams are working on, their progress, where bottlenecks are. It encourages discussion.

The work GDS does as a centre of excellence in digital, technology and data, collaborating with departments to help them with their own transformation

There are two examples of ways in which we work with departments to help with their transformation. Firstly, the building of new digital services using our common platforms.

Secondly, as part of the wider government strategy, we’re now undertaking a project that will help us be more strategic and focus on our capability-building.

A single workforce plan is being created across the digital data and technology profession. This will help us to identify gaps in skills and diversity across government. It will also give us a benchmark to measure progress.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently announced the creation of a £20 million fund to drive the development of new technologies in public services. GDS plays a central role in the allocation and administration of this fund. Funded projects will have embedded GDS innovation specialists who ensure value for money and make sure they link up with other similar projects

Examples of key innovations include AI, ML, biometrics, geospatial, distributed ledgers, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

How GDS works with rest of government to make public services simpler and better

Collaboration is central to this. We are committed to creating an environment in which working together is the norm. GDS has a role in bringing people together because we believe this is how the biggest savings and improvements happen.

GDS also administers standards to help government create and run good digital services. They include the Digital Service Standard; the Technology Code of Practice the Cabinet Office spend controls for digital and technology and Open standards.

Our cross-government communities also provide an opportunity to learn from each other and share best practice.

© Crown copyright


Kevin Cunnington

Director General

Government Digital Service (GDS)

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