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Government’s digital transformation project has saved £210m to date, says Cabinet Office's Mike Bracken

The government has saved £210m directly from its digital transformation project, which kicked off 18 months ago, according to Mike Bracken, executive director, Government Digital Services (GDS) at the Cabinet Office.

Bracken discussed the two-year project – which the GDS spearheads based on recommendations made by Baroness Martha Lane-Fox – at the Financial Time’s Innovate conference in London today (20 November).

He outlined where the Gov.co.uk platform has been streamlined – a process which saw 40 per cent of the original website’s content scrapped – and pointed to a number of historically paper-based services which have now gone digital.

Some of the already transformed services include access to driving licence records, applying for a student loan and online voter registration.

Bracken revealed 82 per cent of the one million people who applied to register to vote used the service over paper-based applications.

He also claimed that the improved website alone has saved the government £60m while £210m has been made in direct savings for the 2013/14 period through digitising paper-based services.

At the end of the initial two-year project, he expects to deliver an estimated £1.3bn in annual savings through time and resource saved in manually processing documents and additional costs such as postage and packaging.

Implementation speed has been imperative in achieving these early results, according to Bracken.

“We’re not buying IT contracts that take several years to deliver. If you can’t do something in 12 weeks then it’s probably not going to get done,” he said. “It takes a shorter amount of time to develop software than to have a meeting about it.”

He pointed to the fail-fast mind-set of the retail sector as a guide for the process and explained that this has also influenced recruitment within the GDS.

“No more can we think that we need public servants to deliver public services,” he said. “There’s a culture in large organisations of learnt helplessness. But we’re bringing people in with the right skills and giving them opportunity.”

One of the main challenges has been bringing all of the different government departments together, he said.

“It’s a very simple point but most organisations don’t work this way because most are absolutely obsessed with themselves. Very large corporations like the government have sub brands that they think are endlessly interesting.”

Bracken added that although the GDS is three quarters of the way through the project, “we are only at the start of the process of working as one government”.

While the GDS doesn’t have a mandate to push innovation out to local government bodies who are not only strapped for budget, but skills and resource as well, Bracken said that he is working to make is easier for them to commission and contract digital projects that have rolled out elsewhere.

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