Thursday, 28 March 2013

GDS, the NAO, the BBC, parliament and DWP – five questions

The National Audit Office (NAO) have released a new report, Digital Britain 2: Putting users at the heart of government’s digital services, examining the Government Digital Service (GDS) plans for digital-by-default. The report's conclusions concentrate on the problems faced by people who can't or won't use on-line public services.

The same problem was examined the day before yesterday by Mark Easton, the BBC's home affairs editor.

And 52 members of parliament have put their name to an early day motion to debate the problem.

Meanwhile the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who were depending on digital-by-default for the introduction of Universal Credit, have published not one but two documents confirming that benefits will continue to rely on face-to-face meetings, telephone calls and letters in the post – the very opposite of digital-by-default – please see Local Support Services Framework and Universal Credit – Your claim journey.

GDS have responded to the NAO report with a post on their blog today:
Overall, this report is a really positive sign we’re moving in the right direction. But it’s also a helpful reminder of the work we still need to do to support those who are less able to use online services.
The NAO report has some ("really positive"?) comments to make on the putative savings we can look forward to from digital-by-default:
1.5 The GDS has also highlighted the possible savings from switching to digital channels. As the strategy states, central government provides more than 650 public services – which cost between £6 billion and £9 billion in 2011-12, according to GDS. The GDS has estimated total potential annual savings of £1.7 billion to £1.8 billion if all these services were operated through digital channels. More than 300 of these services have no digital channel. The savings estimate does not include the costs that may be required to create or redesign digital services. However, it also does not take into account the government’s new approach to becoming digital, set out in its strategy, which could lead to greater savings being achieved more quickly. The GDS states that the average cost of a central government digital transaction can be almost 20 times lower than by phone and 50 times lower than face-to-face.

1.6 We have not audited the estimated savings in the Government Digital Strategy, nor have we audited how government will redesign and develop its new digital services. Our future audits will evaluate the value for money of digital services as the GDS and departments work together to move more than 650 services online.
The report also mentions (without being "really positive") the need for identity assurance. Someone posted a comment on the GDS blog:
dmossesq #

Please Note: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

The NAO report is available at

Under the heading “Trust”, the report includes the following:


4.9 To use online public services people need to be able to trust the government with the information they provide online. The Government Digital Strategy recognises that users of public services often find it hard to register for online services, and that it needs to offer a more straightforward, secure way to allow users to identify themselves online while preserving their privacy. Therefore there is an Identity Assurance Programme [IDAP] under way in GDS and we were told that this is to develop a framework to enable federated identity assurance to be adopted across government services.

4.10 The government also told us that this will involve creating a simple, trusted and secure new way for people and businesses to access government services, which will provide assurance to government that the right person is accessing their own personal information.


Without IDAP, there is no digital-by-default.

DWP were led to believe that IDAP would be “fully operational” for up to 21 million claimants of Universal Credit “from March 2013″,

Here we are in March 2013. And the question the NAO almost ask is, where is IDAP?

That comment has now been moderated. Has it been published? No. It's been deleted.

Tomorrow should see the publication of ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken's video diary, This week at GDS.

He's the executive director of GDS and the senior responsible officer owner for the pan-government identity assurance programme. Will he comment on:
  1. the NAO report?
  2. the BBC report?
  3. the early day motion in parliament?
  4. DWP being stranded without IDAP?
  5. the deliberations of the permanent secretaries who met at GDS's offices yesterday to consider digital-by-default?
Added 16:48:
Following publication of the post above, DMossEsq brought it to the attention of GDS. The comment which had previously been deleted from their blog has now been published by GDS. Also, this week's edition of This week at GDS has been published, a day early, perhaps because of the bank holiday. No response to questions 2., 3. and 4. above. A passing mention of 5. and a promise to consider 1. in next week's edition.


Anonymous said...

The NAO seems to say that existing digital services aren't bad at all - there just need to be more of them.

The NAO have pinpointed that both the GDS unit in Cabinet Office and most gvt departments have overlooked the need for family and friends to act on behalf of digital-refusniks...

See "10 things most people have missed in teh NAO report":

David Moss said...

Thank you for that, Brian. Have just read your Ten Surprises in NAO report, most enjoyable, just gearing up to post a comment on it only to find that I already had!

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