Matt Hancock: UK and US to swap ideas on digital government

Minister for the Cabinet Office unveils plans for "digital fellowship" exchange on visit to Silicon Valley with government's CTO Liam Maxwell

By Civil Service World

23 Sep 2015

Britain and America are to share advice on moving government services online under a new "digital fellowship" scheme to be unveiled by Matt Hancock this week.

The minister for the Cabinet Office – who is on a visit to Silicon Valley with the UK government's chief technology officer Liam Maxwell – is to set out plans to allow the exchange of "high-performing digital specialists" between the two countries.

Graduates on the government's Fast Track scheme will also be given the chance to work with their US counterparts, in a bid to share ideas for moving government services online. 

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The United States has already followed the example of Britain's specialist central team the Government Digital Service, setting up its own equivalent last year. The US Digital Service is led by Mikey Dickerson, who was drafted into government from tech giant Google as the Obama administration grappled with problems faced by its ambitious programme.

Britain's influence on the US Digital Service was highlighted in a recent blog post from one of the team's founders. Reacting to the news that GDS founder and director Mike Bracken is to leave Whitehall, Jennifer Pahlka said a visit to the UK's team had now become "a rite of passage" for "every serious digital government reformer in city, state, and federal government in the US and around the world".

Speaking to tech title WIRED ahead of his visit to the US, Hancock said he hoped the exchange would bolster the evidence base available to the UK civil service, and sought to emphasise his own support for the digital agenda.

"Government is a big organisation – there are about 400,000 civil servants," he said. "But it's split into just over 20 departmental silos, any of which have their own agencies. Hundreds of different organisations.

"By putting in a common digital backbone you can save a lot of money, but you can also crucially make the whole thing work better together. So it's been done. It's been done in 20 individual services in the last five years. But there's a whole lot more to do."

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