Prime Minister David Cameron has described the Government Digital Service (GDS) as “one of the great unsung triumphs of the last parliament” during a speech in Leeds last week. The speech follows the announcement that a number of key figures are set to leave the GDS, including leader Mike Bracken.
Within the speech, ‘My vision for a smarter state’, Cameron talks about the main factors leading the government as it approaches the spending review, which is due to take place on 25th November and will reveal departmental budget cuts over the next five years.
The speech explores how, by developing a smarter state, the government can “spend less” and “deliver more”.
Cameron believes that efficiency – alongside reform and devolution – need to be focussed on in order for the government to be more progressive and meet the challenge of “living within our means” and help “extend opportunity to all”.
On the subject of “principles of a smarter state”, he cites the GDS as a way in which to increase efficiency.
“Indeed, across the spectrum, there are opportunities for us to make a difference not just to people’s pockets but to people’s lives. For example, I believe the creation of the Government Digital Service is one of the great unsung triumphs of the last Parliament,” he said.
“A whole series of things that used to involve complicated paperwork can now be done online, from registering to vote and paying your taxes to the work being done here in this building to help make the benefits system digital.”
A new attitude
He went on to say that the government needs to mirror the way in which businesses are embracing technology to bring about positive change.
“Businesses are always looking at ways to streamline their functions so they can become more effective. I would argue it’s an imperative – a moral imperative – for government to do the same. When money is tight, it’s simply unforgiveable to waste taxpayers’ money,” he said.
However, according to Cameron, there is currently a discrepancy in attitude towards the way in which businesses use technology, and the way in which the government does. When a business uses technology to provide more for less, it’s celebrated, yet when the government does it, it’s “too often badged as cuts”. He said it’s as if “good business is somehow bad government”, and that this attitude must “change”.
In order for the government to become smarter and more efficient, Cameron recognises that it needs to make further digital developments.
“…I want us to go much further in making government digital – saving money and improving services at the same time. That’s what I mean when I say a smarter government can deliver on our progressive goals. And those are just some of the things we are going to be doing,” he said.
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