We have tried to make sense of the alleged savings made by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and their digital-by-default project at least twice before – in The savings to be expected from digital-by-default – a clarification and Cutting costs/making savings, and GDS's fantasy strategy – and failed both times.
The recently published Digital Efﬁciency Report sets out how departments could save approximately £1.2 billion over the remainder of the current spending review period by continuing to move their transactional services online and become ‘digital by default’.
When the Chancellor made his Autumn Statement a year ago we were still expecting GDS's identity assurance system to be "fully operational" by March 2013. It wasn't, it still isn't and, without identity assurance, digital-by-default can't start. Her Majesty's Treasury will therefore have received none of the £1.2 billion they were hoping for yet.
Our budget deficit in the UK is around £120 billion and the national debt is heading towards £1,500 billion by the time of the 2015 general election. £1.2 billion of savings would be appreciated, of course, but it's not a big number against that background.
Material savings are supposed to be made by digital-by-default when take-up reaches 82% according to GDS's Digital Efficiency Report, p.11. And when will that be? 11 or 12 years after digital-by-default starts, according to the graph on p.20. And when will digital-by-default start? No-one knows.
In 10 days time the Chancellor will make this year's Autumn Statement.
He is unlikely to complain about the lack of progress made towards the promised £1.2 billion. That wouldn't be politic.
At the present rate of GDS's progress, he would be imprudent to rely on any savings from digital-by-default in this spending round.
Expect the subject not to be mentioned this year.