GDS chief Stephen Foreshew-Cain: "Digital transformation can't be done without talented people across the civil service"

Written by Civil Service World on 15 December 2015 in Interview

With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Stephen Foreshew-Cain, executive director of the Government Digital Service, takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs round-up series...

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?

GDS has seen a lot of change this year as we moved into a new phase of digital transformation across government. In our shorthand, we talk about “going wholesale” – accelerating transformation by building a shared digital infrastructure of cross government platforms (or Government as a Platform) that everyone can use.

More than anything though this year was about people; not just in GDS, but across government. And that doesn’t change as we go forward. Transforming government to make it more efficient, more digitally capable and more focused on user needs can’t be done without the talented people we have across the civil service. 

We need to continue to build digital, technology and data capability in government if we’re to deliver true transformation. That’s why we’re investing in building a profession for digital and technology in government.

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?

It’s all about delivering Government as a Platform and accelerating digital transformation efforts wherever they are happening. We’ve got to carry on iterating and improving the platforms we already have, such as GOV.UK, GOV.UK Verify, and Digital Marketplace.

But going wholesale means more than that. We’re going to be building new platforms too; a joint effort right across government. We’ll be building the platforms that all of government needs: building them once, building them right, and opening them up to be re-used by everyone. You’ll be hearing about new platforms such as GOV.UK PAY and GOV.UK NOTIFY (with more to come). We’re also supporting the roll-out of new technology tools for civil servants. These shared platforms will free departments to focus on designing and operating world class public services – that are simpler, clearer, faster.

What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?

We have a fairly established routine in my house… It’s a Wonderful Life, the Doctor Who Christmas Special, followed by a game of charades before we all fall into a food-induced coma.  

Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016

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