Government Digital Service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Government Digital Service
Agency overview
Formed11 December 2011 (2011-00-11)
Parent departmentCabinet Office

The Government Digital Service is a unit of the Government of the United Kingdom's Cabinet Office tasked with transforming the provision of online public services.[1] It was formed in April 2011 to implement the "Digital by Default" strategy proposed by a report produced for the Cabinet Office in 2010 called 'Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution'. It is overseen by the Public Expenditure Executive (Efficiency & Reform). GDS is primarily based in the Whitechapel Building, London.[2] Its CEO is Tom Read.[3]


On 20 July 2010, Directgov, the citizen services website, was moved to the Cabinet Office from the Department for Work and Pensions. From 1 April 2011 Directgov became part of the Government Digital Service, along with the BusinessLink website aimed at business users. On 13 September 2012, through a notice on the Directgov homepage, it was announced that the GOV.UK project, built by the Government Digital Service, would replace Directgov as the primary citizen website of the UK Government on 17 October 2012, after which both Directgov and BusinessLink would close.[4]

"Digital by Default" strategy[edit]

The strategy was proposed in a report called "Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution" prepared by Martha Lane Fox, the founder of In an interview, Francis Maude, minister with responsibility for GDS spoke about "powerful oligopolies" and the reliance on a single supplier as a cause of high-profile failures in public sector IT, such as NHS Connecting for Health. GDS is intended to "drive service delivery to digital across government and provide support, advice and technical expertise for departments as they develop new digital delivery models". This strategy is focussed on the application of Agile software development and Lean software development methodologies, supplied primarily via small and medium enterprises rather than large suppliers.[5]

GDS has a Digital Advisory Board consisting of high-profile external experts, which meets bi-annually and advises the GDS on strategy.[6]

As of 2013, less than 2 years after GDS began, GDS had over 200 staff;[7] by 2015 that number had risen to approximately 500.[8]

Government as a platform[edit]

GDS has since mid 2013 promoted the concept of government as a platform,[9] an idea first set out by Tim O'Reilly in 2009 in an article in Forbes.[10] Government as a Platform introduces "a new vision for digital government; a common core infrastructure of shared digital systems, technology and processes on which it's easy to build brilliant, user-centric government services".[11]

The original Government as a Platform products have been joined by new ones and are collectively known as Digital Service Platforms. These include GOV.UK Pay, GOV.UK Notify, GOV.UK Forms, the Design System, GOV.UK Frontend and the UK Emergency Alerts system.

GOV.UK Verify[edit]

In 2011, GDS was given responsibility for setting cross-government standards for identity assurance, with the authority to approve, commission and accredit the identity component of any central government public service. GDS then designed and is building GOV.UK Verify.[12] GOV.UK Verify is intended to act as a single sign on framework for government services like filing taxes or checking driving license information. The system allows the user to choose from a list of companies certified to verify their identity to government. These companies have to meet published standards for identity assurance.[13]

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) conducted a review of Verify in July 2018, and found Whitehall departments were reluctant to continue funding the project. A subsequent report by the IPA recommended that the Verify identity assurance programme should be terminated.[14]


The GDS service has influenced similar projects elsewhere in the world, including the United States Digital Service, 18F, the Canadian Digital Service[15] and the DigitalService4Germany.[16]

Parliamentary review[edit]

In July 2018, the Science and Technology Select Committee announced that it would be carrying out a review into the work of GDS.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Digital Advisory Board to support Government Digital Service Archived 10 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine wired Magazine. Retrieved 25 April 2012
  2. ^ New minister pays a visit to GDS's new HQ GOV.UK Retrieved 28 June 2017
  3. ^ "New year, new DDaT leadership - Government Digital Service". 13 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  4. ^ Executive Director of Digital in the Cabinet Office Mike Bracken. Retrieved 20 May 2011
  5. ^ Maude sets out 'digital by default', single-platform vision for UK government Computing Incisive Media UK Retrieved 12 June 2012
  6. ^ The U.K.'s Digital Plan to Innovate Government The Wall Street Journal Retrieved 19 September 2012, 5:41 pm. ET
  7. ^ Saul Klein. "Government Digital Service: the best startup in Europe we can't invest in". 15 November 2013.
  8. ^ "GDS mission – the next phase | Government Digital Service". Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  9. ^ "alphagov/government-service-design-manual". GitHub. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Gov 2.0: The Promise Of Innovation". Forbes. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Government as a Platform: the next phase of digital transformation - Government Digital Service". Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  12. ^ "GOV.UK Verify". GOV.UK. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Identity proofing and authentication". GOV.UK. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Government projects watchdog recommends terminating Verify identity project". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  15. ^ Benjamin, Katherine; Potts, Henry WW (2018). "Digital transformation in government: Lessons for digital health?" (PDF). Digital Health. 4: 205520761875916. doi:10.1177/2055207618759168. PMC 6005404. PMID 29942624.
  16. ^ "Entwickeln für den Staat". (in German). Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Digital Government inquiry launched - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  18. ^ "'GDS's future mission needs clarifying'". 18 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.

External links[edit]