The UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the US is about to turn digital


The technical teams for the United Kingdom and United States government have agreed to collaborate with each other on improving digital services during a UK tech delegation at the White House.


Working together on digital services

Matthew Hancock, the UK’s minister for the Cabinet Office and Liam Maxwell, the government’s chief technology officer travelled to Washington to improve Britain’s relationship with the United States’ technical team.

Hancock and Maxwell met with Shaun Donovan, White House Office of Management and budget director and the United States chief technology officer Megan Smith.

During the meeting it was agreed that the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) will team up with the US Digital Service (USDS), Washington’s 18F agency and the Presidential Innovation Fellows, an initiative that is designed to bring the innovation economy into government.

This collaboration between the groups will allow for an exchange of skillsets, knowledge and ideas to ‘‘make the delivery of policies and programmes more effective.’’

‘‘Without smart, energetic and connected talent our digital programme would fall apart,’’ explained Hancock.

‘‘By sharing knowledge and exchanging skillsets we build digital teams that are the best they can be. I’m incredibly proud of all the UK Government Digital Service has achieved over the last few years.’’

‘‘I look forward to leading the next phase of GDS – transatlantic cooperation will be important in helping the digital operations in both the UK and US government’s scale up and succeed.’’


Leveraging ‘technical and digital talent’

The UK’s digital service team has always been open to the idea of digital collaboration.

In December 2014 the UK entered into a partnership agreement with South Korea, Estonia, New Zealand and Israel on how to improve online services. Dubbed the ‘D5 group’, the nation’s last met in London to discuss cloud services, connectivity and coding.

The US and the UK already have a history of working together on private sector projects. A collaboration between the two nations resulted in the creation of the Bletchley Park code breakers and the ENIAC ballistics calculation advances in the US.

This summer USDS and 18F staff met former GDS chief Mike Bracken in London to discuss digital collaboration in government. In a GDS video blog, Bracken hoped that this partnership would continue in the future.

‘‘The more governments can talk about the problems that they’re facing and be open about them, and the more that we can help each other, then that’s got to be the right thing,’’ stated Bracken.

The United States is currently improving its web services which when completed, will enable its citizens to pay for government services online.

This may be something that GDS will become involved in, but its currently unclear as to which initiatives the two nations will be collectively working on.

Shaun Donovan highlighted the US and UK’s special relationship in the government tech sector, and hopes that the latest meeting will spur on a new digital partnership.

‘‘By leveraging the very best of our two nations’ technical and digital talent, we’ll continue enhancing our governments’ ability to deliver critical services like healthcare, veterans benefits, and access to higher education, to American and British citizens alike.’’

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