Mike Bracken: we will make government work better

Government digital director says user needs are more important than making savings

Mike Bracken has reiterated his team’s goal of making government work better.

Speaking at a ThoughtWorks conference on continuous delivery, the government’s executive director for digital, insisted that the UK had a deep tradition for the delivery of excellent public services, but admitted that “this hasn’t always translated to digital”.

Citing the ‘public service ethos’ of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who designed the main drainage and sewerage system for London in the 1850s, Bracken said that the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) first focus was on meeting user needs, with making savings a secondary driver.

“We are doing it for users before thinking about savings and innovation for government,” said Bracken. “And we are also only publishing information about what is necessary for users. Government should do what only government should do.” Previously published government information, for example, has included diverse subjects such as keeping bees.

“What we are providing is a means of getting to ‘quick do’ services, such as tracking passport applications, obtaining lasting power of attorney, or getting access to crisis loans. And we will ensure that people start with ‘search’ as most people do when looking for services,” Bracken said.

He outlined a series of ‘must have’ elements that are driving the digital service’s development, including: digital by default; putting users first; learning from the journey; building a network of trust; moving barriers aside; and not doing everything ourselves.

An example of GDS’s development is provided by the Cabinet Office as part of its one-year-on progress report into implementation of the government’s ICT strategy.

“Lasting power of attorney is a service provided by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). It is a legal document, allowing an individual to appoint someone that they trust as an ‘attorney’ to make decisions on their behalf when, for example, they no longer wish to or lack the mental capacity to do so,” says the document. “At present the process is relatively slow and expensive, as well as paper-based, taking around 10 weeks to process.

“GDS are transforming this process with the OPG to reduce cost; reducing the time to process the form to four weeks; and to enable all parts of the process to take place online, creating a service that’s simple, clearer and faster for the user, while lower cost and more efficient for government.”

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.

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