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UK Government Digital Services Identity Assurance Initiative Vital for Digital Healthcare

UK Government Digital Services Identity Assurance Initiative Vital for Digital Healthcare

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its independent research report on Digital by Default objectives, which is based on sound assumptions about the preferences, capabilities, and needs of the citizens of England.

The report is based on independent research established from the viewpoints of over 3,000 people surveyed face-to-face, 130 businesses surveyed online, and eight focus groups across England.

It is worth reflecting on the fact that the NAO undertook an earlier review of the previous decade’s progress on the development of what was then the UK Government’s online service development initiative (Digital Britain One: Shared infrastructure and services for Government online), which many will recognise as Directgov and Business.gov along with the infrastructure service Government Gateway, the transition to which commenced in 2000.

In the December 2011 report, the NAO report concluded that the government’s Digital Britain One initiative had not:

in general measured the benefits delivered by its two central internet services Directgov and Business.gov, and the infrastructure service Government Gateway, which together cost some £90 million a year

The report concluded that it was:

crucial that the Government Digital Service (GDS), established in March 2011 to implement a new strategy to deliver all government information services digitally, builds in the right mechanisms to achieve value for money as it plans the future of digital shared infrastructure and services.“

Government Digital Service

This strategy sets out how the government will become digital by default. It fulfils the commitment we made in the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Critically, “digital by default” means digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so, while those who can’t are excluded.

The first stage was rationalising the previous two Directgov and Business.gov websites into a single website, gov.uk; transactional services now present the biggest focus to save people time and the government money.

All departments are undertaking end-to-end service redesign of all transactional services, and all new or redesigned transactional services going live after April 2014 are required to meet the new Digital by Default Service Standard.

Seven departments, which between them handle the majority of central government transactions. These are:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Transport (DFT)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
  • Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Home Office

Each department has identified three significant exemplary service transformations with the Cabinet Office. These transformations, along with delivery plans, were identified and published in departmental digital strategies in December 2012. Departments started redesigning these exemplary services in April 2013, and the implementation target date is set for March 2015.

Key Digital by Default National Audit Office Report 2012 Findings

The government has made more ambitious plans to make public services digital over the last year.

In the 13 years since the government first announced that it would move public information and transaction services online; a move it initially intended to complete by 2005. The current government’s scope of requirements has been extended to address the more fundamental need to redesign public services.

Set up in 2011, the Government Digital Service established firm leadership of this digital agenda. In particular, it has:

  • Started to improve the Cabinet Office’s digital capacity and establish digital leaders in departments;
  • Replaced the Directgov and Business.gov portals to public services with a single website – GOV. The UK is a single point of entry to online public services;
  • Analysed and published cost and performance information on online public services and
  • Published the Government Digital Strategy

The Government’s Digital Strategy is based on sound evidence that many people and small- and medium-sized businesses can access and have the skills to use online public services.

NAO surveys report that 83% of people use the internet. Whether people live in a rural or urban area appears to make little difference to their internet use. Age, socio-economic group, and disability affect internet use. Over 90% of the NAO surveyed online were experienced internet users who felt confident about completing online tasks without help. However, 7% of those online lack confidence and may need internet help.

Challenges For Citizen Engagement

Most people have access to the Internet and can conduct the types of transactions required by online public services. However, this does not translate into the government’s online services being used in some areas. For example, the 20 public services covered by the NAO research found that the proportion of online transactions ranged from less than 50% to over 80%, depending on which service was being used.

There are three types of barriers identified by the NAO to people choosing to use more public services online:

  • People’s behaviour rather than their awareness of an online option was identified as a potentially significant barrier. Of those who had used one of the 20 public services covered by our survey offline, 80% and 90% of users were aware of an online option for five services. Some people who attended our focus groups said they preferred face-to-face contact, even if they knew they could use the service online.
  • People are generally not happy with providing personal information online. Although trust in the government is higher among online users than in online banking or shopping, only 37% are happy to share information with the government online. 17% have some security concerns, and 5% do not share information with the government because of these concerns.
  • There is low awareness of some online public services. Across the 20 public services in our research, the proportion of people using services online who knew that there was an online option ranged from 47% to 89%.

The Government Digital Service plans to support offline users of online public services. The NAO surveyed those who expressed concerns about the impact of putting more public services online on the elderly and those digitally excluded from the internet.

The government plans to develop assisted digital support for 23 exemplar digital services by 2014-15 and establish common models of assisted digital support and shared procurement routes for assisted digital services. Of those surveyed, 17% do not use the Internet, and 72% do not intend to go online in the coming year. Most of those offline have low confidence in using a computer and know little about the Internet.

Based on these numbers, four million people in England may need help using online services. However, of those who are offline, 48% already receive help from someone else, such as friends, family, or work colleagues. Critically, the government’s approach to assisted digital services does not recognise this situation.

eCulture Observations

The government has long been aware of the need to support offline users of online services. It develops plans to assist those offline and recognises the importance of users knowing how and where to access services. The NAO assessment of users’ capability has identified that a significant number of people will need help, particularly those who are over 65, in lower socio-economic groups or disabled.

Reference Links

Link to the NAO Digital Britain 2: Report – 28th Mar 2013

Government Digital Strategy: December 2013

UK Government Online

Digital Britain One: Shared infrastructure and services for government online – 9th Dec 2011

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