Digital government: Cabinet Office launches new ministerial tech group

Matt Hancock says new team will bring together officials and ministers to focus on digital reform

By matt.foster

09 Nov 2015

A new ministerial group on technology has been launched by the Cabinet Office to try and join up the government's digital reform efforts.

Ahead of this month's Spending Review, ministers and senior officials have repeatedly emphasised the potential savings to be made from moving more government services online.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock announced on Monday that a new "ministerial group on government digital technology" would bring together ministers and civil servants from across Whitehall to focus on that agenda.

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"Digital transformation is recasting the relationship between citizen and state, making it easier for people to interact with a government that works for them," he said.

"This means dealing with government without confusion, without being put on hold, and without having to join a queue.

"We believe that doing this right can save billions by 2020. But this means working closely across government and making sure that we can store citizens’ data safely and securely. That’s exactly what this group will do, and I’m looking forward to working with my ministerial colleagues to drive through these reforms."

According to the Cabinet Office, the unit will coordinate work on a number of fronts, including improving the user experience for online government services; boosting data security; and trying to avoid the duplication of digital platforms that could be used by multiple departments.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said details of who would attend the new group, how often it would meet, and which departments would be represented were still to be confirmed 

Hancock's latest digital initiative comes amid speculation over the future role of the Government Digital Service unit. GDS was set up in the last parliament to provide central government oversight on digital, overhauling the way departments deal with IT suppliers and bringing all government websites under the single GOV.UK domain.

But it has been reported that GDS – which has recently seen a number of high-profile exits from its top team – could be braced for a tough settlement at the Spending Review. Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood told CSW in September that reports of the unit's downgrading following the departure of executive director Mike Bracken were "completely misguided".

Bracken recently announced that four ex-Government Digital Service staff had joined him in his new role at the Co-operative.

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