back to article Assessing the UK’s Government Digital Service

For the Government Digital Service, 2015 has been a year of challenge and uncertainty. Many issues have dogged the body, but some of the most high profile included the £215m IT fiasco for farmers' rural payment allowances and the departure of Mike Bracken, the man whose name has become synonymous with the body, amid rumours that …

  1. happy but not clappy

    It's just a little trivial

    If you read their stuff, it's just a bit too marketroid. Buzz-word bingo abounds. They support every language going, every devops going, open standards, have a laser focus on the user, use agile, talk about delivering at pace and so on, but there is nothing to illustrate how they do this, or display status of how they are getting on. Lack of transparency/visibility is the kiss of death IMO, and smells of dishonesty.

    Good luck to them, but agile is more than dev. Dev is the easy 80%. They need to get this.

    1. Lysenko

      Re: It's just a little trivial

      Unfortunately when you are implementing a tax code or CAP rules then a "laser focus on the user" means you are looking in the wrong damn place and "agility" simply means "getting it wrong - repeatedly".

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: It's just a little trivial

        What if I don't really want to have a laser focussed on me?

        1. Winkypop Silver badge

          Re: What if I don't really want to have a laser focussed on me?

          Here, you can borrow mine... -->

  2. a_yank_lurker

    Who Is Worse?

    Reading this reminds me of the Obamacare roll out, a genuine fiasco. It appears they have not quite sunk to that level of incompetence, corruption, and cronyism. I remember a site that 3 college kids put together in about week or so that worked better the official government site; you could actually view and buy healthcare policies in a reasonable period of time (mostly spent reviewing your options not fighting the site).

    It seems that bureaucracies have a very difficult time managing software development no matter what development model they use. They have the buzzword bingo down but is about it.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Who Is Worse?

      That's because they are terrified of appearing to not be in control, but are actually clueless.

  3. BurnT'offering

    According to a recent GDS blog

    The Verify service has customer support provided by a 3 of their developers on a rota (not weekends or evenings, mind you). It has no SLAs, KPIs or useful MI. And if you ask GDS who owns the liability if things go wrong with Verify, their answer is, 'not us'. So, if GDS ask me when I'm going to connect our department's online service to Verify, forgive me if I answer, "not just yet, or at least not until some nong of a Minister tells me to."

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "online identity assurance system"

    And this is the online version of an identity card system because....

    I smell a database being built.

  5. MrTuK

    They don't need an identity card system they already have one, everyone has a unique NI number and with the not so secret anymore "PRESTON" monitoring system that they denied they ever had what else do they need, Oh I know just £100m a year to run it, well now they have that too !

    Lies, lies and yet more lies - its called FUD and with ISIS (Daesh) playing into their hands they will get more money all they will need is a few high profile Pedophiles to be caught and they will get their justification !

    A slam dunk I think !

    Billions of £'s to catch a few Pedo's and stop some hypothetical terrorist's from not happening and thing that would really put a kibosh on the whole thing would actually be some big terrorist explosions with lots of deaths that they missed because they avoided technology and used the not so Royal Mail !

    Not that I would want that to happen, but that would really put the cat amongst the pigeons, but they would probably worm their way out of that by sacking a few high profile people with them getting the usual high paid retirement fund and then they would still continue in the mass surveillance of everyone in the UK. I am just wondering how long before they want to tag us all with a RFID chip like they do with dog's ? Maybe from birth, with the excuse so they don't mix up the babies !

    1. BurnT'offering

      Re: everyone has a unique NI number

      Apart from the hundreds of thousands of people with duplicate numbers, either because they are temporary, or because the system is a hopeless muddle (or hopeful muddle, depending on your point of view).

      Nice rant, but only 7 out of 10 because you missed a chance to write 'methinks' in the third para.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Not everyone has a National Insurance Number. What if you are a non-resident who has to register for tax in the UK for one reason or another? You might be issued with an NI number as part of the process, but you won't have one when you first make contact with HMRC.

  6. Commswonk

    Every time a politician uses the word "digital"...

    ...I remember this from Scott Adams:

    Just change the box at the top of the first box to read "politicians". IMHO that is exactly how politicians react if anything "digital" crosses their paths.

  7. D Moss Esq

    Damned to failure

    Sir David [Varney]'s aim, set out in a report he wrote for Mr Brown at the end of last year [2006], is to create a giant centralised government database containing information about everybody in the country. It would establish what he calls a "single source of truth" about each individual - "made more robust through the introduction of identity cards" - which could be accessed by any department that wanted to verify who somebody was. It could also be used to target services more efficiently at individuals.

    That was nine years ago.

    And now? What's changed?

    Speaking at the Code for America Summit 2015, Tom Loosemore described the set of registers on which Government as a Platform (GaaP) relies as the "single source of truth" (20'50"-21'00").

    The same Biblical language is being used. That hasn't changed.

    For "identity cards", read "GOV.UK Verify (RIP) accounts".

    The promise remains better public services.

    And information about us all is still to be shared by benevolent government departments.

    Mr Loosemore recommends that this sharing should only take place with our consent. That might have carried some weight if he could explain how the Trust and Consent layer in his GaaP model could be effective but he couldn't. And if were still deputy director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) but he isn't.

    The Trust and Consent layer was no more than a fig leaf and is dispensed with in GDS's model of GaaP.

    A review of GDS must conclude that Whitehall has learned nothing in nine years. The pursuit of a single source of truth is damned to failure now just as much as it was in 2006.

    1. organiser

      Re: Damned to failure

      Whenever the government says "better public services", keep in mind that it is always primarily about better public services for the government, not for the general public.

  8. Craig Cockburn

    some thoughts on how to improve GDS

    10 tips for future-proofing against mistakes it made before

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