The Government Digital Service (GDS) is an impressive outfit. As our feature reveals, it’s pioneered a new approach to online service delivery, pushing government to the cutting edge. Yet the GDS mustn’t forget the ‘digitally excluded’ who struggle to get online – including their fellow civil servants. Some officials are using Internet Explorer 6, which became obsolete seven years ago. Their use of such archaic kit creates security risks, and places obstacles in their way as they try to keep up with the government’s plans to publish data, engage with the public via social media, launch digital services and implement open policymaking.
To many civil servants, then, the GDS appears to come from a different planet. Its staff have cutting-edge laptops while many officials struggle to open documents or access news websites. Certainly, the GDS has been savvy in its procurement, avoiding constrictive contracts and using open source software; in the longer term, other departments may consider this model. But meanwhile, its staff should do more to show that they understand the challenges faced by other civil servants. And above all, civil service leaders must ensure that people have the modern technology required to do the job that is being asked of them.