Friday, 16 September 2016

Why no-one can devise @gdsteam's strategy

“It reminds me of that old joke – you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.

Last heard, the Government Digital Service (GDS) were due to publish their strategy yesterday, 15 September 2016. That was the deadline. Not for the first time, they missed it.

Instead of a strategy explaining what GDS are going to do with £450 million we were treated to a press release, Government Digital Service announces plans to run a national digital academy, which includes this:
GDS director general Kevin Cunnington said:

" More and more we are going to make the work from GDS about transformation - not just digital.

" We have a superb team and I want our UK strategy to not only reflect the bold ambition that we have across Government, but the new challenges that now face us. We will have an updated and complete Digital Transformation Strategy before the end of the year."
What's all this about "the new challenges that now face us"?

According to the press release:
The Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy is also going to be updated to match the new and larger remit of GDS and to take into account the EU referendum vote and the challenges that the Civil Service now face.
Someone would have us believe that GDS, who couldn't even computerise farm payments, have a transformative rôle to play in bringing about the UK's exit from the European Union.

You may find that unlikely ...

... in which case you must put forward another explanation for the long delay in agreeing GDS's strategy. If the delay isn't caused by working out GDS's crucial contribution to Brexit, what is it caused by?

Here's one possibility:
  • The UK government continues to want all public services to be digital by default.
  • In order for that to work everyone must have an on-line identity.
  • GDS have come up with GOV.UK Verify (RIP), an identity assurance platform that doesn't work.
  • You try writing the GDS strategy in that case – you'll be delayed well beyond "the end of the year".
GDS's bosses know that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is dead and that digital-by-default as currently envisaged is a dead duck. But they continue to want digital-by-default so they continue to pretend that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is viable.

It's hard in this case to disagree with the first head of GDS, Mike Bracken, whose recent gritty pronouncement on Whitehall is:
The system is not set up to do stuff. It’s set up, frankly, to have an intellectual pissing match around how its things should be.

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