Monday, 25 April 2016

Willing enthusiasm isn't enough

11:19 a.m., 8 October 2014, 18 months ago, someone saves a copy of the Transactions Explorer page of the Government Digital Service's performance platform:


Then someone updates HMRC digital team plights troth to wrong Liege and forgets about it ...

... until recently.

You will notice that GDS were trying to measure how digital central government is, department by department. The data they used is repeated below. You won't be surprised which department wins ...

Department
Digital take-up*
Total cost*
Data coverage*
Transactions per year





HM Revenue and Customs
91.90%
£528m
77.30%
1,233,662,926
Department for Transport
57.40%
£268m
73.60%
130,337,698
Home Office
4.83%
£1.43bn
76.20%
126,270,677
Department for Work and Pensions
17.20%
£3.77bn
95.80%
107,781,180
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
82.40%
£242m
54%
40,513,661
Department of Health
40.80%
£308m
61.90%
33,647,220
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
86.60%
£101m
76.20%
22,580,710
Ministry of Justice
21.40%
£5.02m
52.40%
8,508,685
Cabinet Office
100%
£32.1k
100%
4,870,984
Department of Energy and Climate Change



1,331,834
Foreign and Commonwealth Office



549,065
Department for Communities and Local Government



515,756
Ministry of Defence



477,707
Department for Education



245,144
Attorney General's Office



65,658
Department for Culture, Media and Sport



33,589
Department for International Development



21,001




* Figures are based on data for high-volume services only




... yes, the Cabinet Office, which includes GDS, has 100% digital take-up (whatever that means) and 100% data coverage (whatever that means) and it's the winner.

That was 18 months ago. The figures were questionable.

Now, if you look at the services data on the performance platform, you find that GDS have stopped trying to measure digital take-up and data coverage. They list 802 public services and they have data on 571 of them which, between them, notch up 2.38 billion transactions p.a.

Take a look at GDS's data and you see that the 802 public services are divided up, department by department, as follows:

Department No. services
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills 177
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 118
Department of Health 98
Department for Transport 77
Department of Energy & Climate Change 67
Department for Work and Pensions 48
Department for Culture, Media & Sport 43
Home Office 41
HM Revenue & Customs 34
Ministry of Justice 29
Foreign & Commonwealth Office 18
Department for Education 11
Cabinet Office 11
HM Treasury 10
Valuation Office Agency 9
Department for International Development 3
Department for Communities and Local Government 3
Ministry of Defence 2
Attorney General's Office 2
UK Export Finance 1

Does the Department for Communities and Local Government really offer only three services? And the Ministry of Defence just two?

Again, the figures seem questionable.

GDS keep promising us canonical registers. On which government policy can be based rationally. Their performance platform omits data on the Government Gateway. And it omits data on the Basic Payment Scheme for farmers. And it doesn't look as though GDS can even count public services.

The Office for National Statistics have got a lot of work to do to bring GDS up to speed on data science. Willing enthusiasm isn't enough.

How can GDS be ready to build Government as a Platform?

Tomorrow they're attending – or possibly even hosting – a seminar on blockchain, Blockchain: exploring uses in government. Are they ready for that?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The counting has been poor for over 3 years. GDS asked departments to report how many services they had. BIS counted every single application form they offered as a service and came out top. Meanwhile, HMRC counted a service at the level of Business Tax, not even Corporation tax, and woefully understating the complexity of the tax system. Nobody in GDS questioned the numbers and they appeared *everywhere*.
As for transaction explorer, the numbers don't add up. There are some gaping holes that make the data useless apart from as isolated data points at the lowest level. Such a missed opportunity.

David Moss said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous at 12:13 on 26 April 2016.

From what you say, GDS aren't interested in data after all. In that case, their policy is not the logical implication of the facts before them. It must be driven by something else. What? Some prior agenda? Personal preference? Fashion?

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