back to article GDS, what is it good for? According to a UK parliamentary committee: 'Increasingly unclear'

Failure to tackle mountains of legacy tech, a lack of leadership and woolly definitions of digital have led to the Government Digital Service role becoming "increasingly unclear," a Parliamentary report has found. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report into digital government, found that the role of GDS …

  1. David Lewis 2

    I just barfed!

    "The government must re-address its approach to digitisation quickly if it wants to retain public trust and its envied position on the world stage."

    That boat sailed a long time ago.

    Only a politician could utter such a statement with a straight face and possibly believe it.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: I just barfed!

      My first observation as well. Send rather naive of him if he ever truly believes that (or he needs to get out more).

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Was its purpose ever actually clear?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      They can churn out static web pages with the best of 'em.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >They can churn out static web pages with the best of 'em.

        Once the tendering process for the focus groups to brainstorm how stakeholders interact with the new font proposal has passed it's key review points

  3. m0rt

    the modern Ministry of Administrative Affairs...

    What we need is Jim Hacker. Aptly named, too.

  4. monty75

    Going Downhill Slowly

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yesterday's technology tomorrow

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    To address the skills shortages...

    GDS should make working for the Government a welcoming and beneficial prospect so to recruit some highly skilled contractors who are used to working in unstable environments and on short notic... oh...

  6. Ordinary Donkey Bronze badge

    "But addressing these challenges requires money and the Government must be willing to invest to save in the future"

    Translation: We're screwed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hasn't helped that they kept loosing long-term funding for the programmes that were actually making a real difference across government departments.

    1. Martin

      "...they kept LOSING long-term funding..."


  8. Mike 137 Silver badge

    We, the people ...

    'It noted legacy IT systems "present a significant barrier" to effective government transformation'

    We, the people, whom the sole purpose of government is to serve, do not want "transformation" - we want adequate, non-intrusive, economically affordable services to support us and our purposes. The tech-geek subculture that has spawned everything from "self-driving" cars to Soylent seems to think that only it has the true vision of the the way the world should run, and not even government has proved immune from infection by its mechanarchic dystopian ambition to eliminate the human from all interactions and relationships.

    Technology (whatever it might be, from flints to quantum computers) should be there to enhance and support the aims and endeavours of the many, not to coerce them against their will and inclination to conduct their lives in ways that primarily benefit the few (e.g. saving an extraordinarily wasteful "department" money). This is even more the case where the technologies being foisted on the people are so woefully inadequate as the history of GDS demonstrates.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: We, the people ...

      Transformation is how you achieve adequate economically affordable services.

      That GDS has been demonstrably incapable of delivering it does not make it a bad thing.

  9. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    the point of digitisation is to save money by degrading the service, a bit like self service checkouts. get the mug punter to faff about doing something in twice the time (at least) it takes a knowledgeable insider in order to sack the people doing customer service. this is also why you can't sort out utility problems at the electric / gas / water shop, younger readers will wonder what I'm on about here...

    old gimmer gets coat, wanders off mumbling.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank me later!

    My proudest moment in public sector IT was scuppering 'mad' Frankie Maude's plan to enforce Open Document Format on my users of MS Office.

    Me - "Word then can't track changes!"

    GDS/Cabinet Office - "Yes"

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Thank me later!

      I tracked my changes in Word once. It ended up looking like the whole of the document with overstrike followed by the whole of the document again. So, like 80% of Word's options, I turned it off and never used it again.

      1. wanstronian

        Re: Thank me later!

        Learn to use Word properly. ;-)

  11. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    Reverse Digitalisation?

    From context, it appears that all legacy systems are not "Digital", or at least not digital enough.

    I assume there may still be paper based systems and even a small analogue computer hidden in a dusty basement somewhere but in the main I suspect that most legacy systems are already running on digital computers.

    So, if (Legacy ne Digital) then the new digital systems must be slowly ageing into non-digital as the years pass.

    It is telling that they don't even appear to know what legacy systems they have and what they do.

  12. wanstronian

    In the early days, GDS were instrumental in forcing government departments to adopt and embrace new ways of delivering software. The potential was high to banish the endless cycle of EDS-style failures that were constantly reported in the computer press.

    However, after the Exemplar programme, GDS were largely de-fanged, and while most switched-on government departments recognise the value in modern development methods, some are still held back by legacy PRINCE2 internal constraints and misunderstandings about what agile development (for example) actually means. For services, the GDS assessment mechanism still works, as it enables suppliers to develop software in the right way, focussing on the end-user needs rather than the department's domain knowledge-driven approach (I remember on one occasion, I stumbled across a Scrum board where every single ticket started with, "As a Product Owner, I want the user to...").

    As for GDS' internal capability, that I cannot assess, although Verify was an unmitigated failure largely because it focused on the technology rather than the user. As stewards of the development process, I can't fault GDS much, but maybe they don't have the internal talent to develop services according to their own guidelines. The fact is, government doesn't pay much so the best people work for consultancies.

    GDS has been, and continues to be, an advocate of good working practices. They just need the right person in charge, and to be given the authority to carry out their mandate. At the moment they have neither.

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